Saturday, March 05, 2011

Living Without Religion

The Center for Public Inquiry has launched an awareness campaign, and this video promotes awareness that not every American is religious, and that such people can have moral lives filled with meaning. True enough, and almost self-evident with the growing number of Americans who declare themselves as atheist/agnostic or as having “no religion”.

And yet radical-right christianists nevertheless have enormous power in the US. One of the reasons, I think, that New Zealand has no powerful religious right (in the US sense) is that so many New Zealanders are firmly secular (even those who are religious). When people are less religious, particularly in the public sphere, the political power of rightwing religion wanes. So, too, does the power wane the better educated people are.

Which is why it’s no surprise that far-right religionists seem to absolutely despise atheists. It’s as if they think that if fundamentalists were exposed to the non-religious, nearly all of them would, en masse, leave religion. I honestly don’t know what their problem is.

What surprises me, however, is the number of ordinary, mainstream religionists who also have antipathy toward atheists and their message. I don’t get that at all, either. Last year I wrote about how a 2007 Gallup Poll found that Americans would be more likely to vote for a gay presidential candidate than one who was an atheist—something true of people all over the political and religious spectra. Very weird, that.

Common wisdom has it that atheists often do themselves no favours, meeting fundamentalist aggression with aggression of their own, but much of that’s exaggerated by the religious right for propaganda purposes (it isn’t half as bad as they like to pretend). And, anyway, sometimes a little stroppiness can cut through the noise and nonsense coming from the right so other viewpoints can get attention.

I do have one criticism of what is a truly innocuous ad: It uses the ending conclusion, “You don't need God— to hope, to care, to love, to live.” Doesn’t the wording imply belief in the existence of THAT god, a deity that can simply be ignored? If they’re saying that religious belief, or belief in a deity, isn’t necessary for the things they list, then it seems to me it should say “a god” or even more simply, “religion”. I also think that would be less confrontational, and more to the point.

In any case, the anger that some people feel toward videos like this baffles me. Finding a solution seems elusive, too. And that’s the part that’s really sad.

1 comment:

Angela said...

I think only the truly stroppy atheists like Christopher Hitchens sometimes hurt their cause (and I want to say Richard Dawkins, too--whichever scientist it was who opened his book with the direct comparison of religious ideas to liver flukes possessing the brains of ants, or some such--great bridge-building there, bro).

I call myself agnostic and sometimes show up at the monthly Unitarian Universalist group here in Wellington for bikkies and conversation. I also decorate eggs year-round using a pagan-cum-Christian method that I happen to enjoy. New Zealand is just my speed, I think.