Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Religious discrimination

Do we, as Atheists, discriminate on the basis of religion? I guess a better question is, are we ok with that?

I touched on this a bit in my last post, but I wanted to give this it's own post. My wife and I were discussing this over dinner a while back, and we agree that "yes we do." She said then that she wishes she didn't, but I don't really feel bad about it. But is that wrong? People could say that it's just like discriminating based on sex, race, or sexual preference, and there are some valid comparisons, but I see it as an entirely different discrimination.

You are born as a certain sex, as a certain race. You become homosexual either because of genetics, chemical reactions, or your environment. These are things entirely out of our control, and to discriminate based on these traits would be immoral. However, political affiliation, views on social issues, and religion (among other things) are in a different league.

I would never base my opinion on someone because they are a Bush supporter, or because they believe in traditional family values, or because they are anti-abortion. However, if someone said the following:

Democrats are all godless anti-American heathens who are trying to take women out of their rightful place at home, taking care of their masters, and letting them kill babies willy-nilly. They should all be killed and die a slow and painful death.
I would discriminate against them, gladly, and without reserve.

Likewise, I would never base my opinion on someone who believed something they heard without getting any evidence. People do it all the time. But when presented with evidence, we tend to be rational and accept the fact that we're wrong. Therefore, when someone tells me they believe in Christianity (or any other religion for that matter), my first thought is usually "really? I thought you were more intelligent than that."

I have read a lot about many different religions. Throughout my life I've probably read at least half of the Bible. To me, none of the religions that I have read about provide any reasonable evidence of their validity, nor do they provide any real answers. Furthermore, while evidence exists that certain events in religious texts did happen, there is no evidence of anything "otherworldly" happening at any point in history. Just look at some of the things religion gives us:

Catholicism is controlled by a government of sorts, that can decide which beliefs people should hold. One day you may be told that you don't believe in something you've believed in all your life.

Mormons believe that a man got the word of God by looking into a hat.

Scientologists (do I even need to go there) believe that there are souls of creatures called Thetans attached to everyone that must be removed before one can become enlightened.

Christians believe in a god that, while willing to send you into the depths of hell to burn for all eternity if you break any of his commandments without asking him for forgiveness, loves you very much and is interested in everything you do throughout the day.

Isn't this worth discrimination? At least as much as someone saying they have an invisible friend who follows them around during the day? As much as people who truly believe knocking on wood will prevent bad things from happening?

Don't get me wrong, if I were in a position to hire, I would never value an Atheist over a Christian. If I were renting a house, I would never value an Atheist over a Muslim. I don't discriminate against anyone in that sense, and I have no problem being friends with religious people, as long as they are ok with me. But intellectually speaking, I value Atheism above all religion, and I will always think differently about believers because of their willingness to forgo all rationality and support a superstition thousands of years old.

I've typed the word "discriminate" so much that it's starting to just look like random letters shoved together, so I think now is a good time to stop.


Intergalactic Hussy said...

'"really? I thought you were more intelligent than that."' I hate to admit it, but sometimes thoughts like that go through my head if someone says they belong to a religion. Yet I don't discriminate...we, as atheists, are far more discriminated against. It's normal to hear "Thank god" this, where no one thinks twice because most of them believe in some type of god. It's just silly.

I have plenty of theist friends (mostly agnostic theists)... I don't care what one believes, as long as he/she doesn't use it to show that they are better or more moral because of it.

But to say something logical, Oh My Science, you have to fight to be heard sometimes.

CHADMAC said...

"really? I thought you were more intelligent than that."

I find myself thinking that all the time....especially with people at work. They are great, rational engineers and researchers in their day-to-day work, but they don't apply the same reasoning to their religious superstitions.

The Anonymous Atheist said...

I think it's interesting that both of you really identified with that thought... Glad to know it's not weird :)

IH- I don't disagree with you. I have a lot of Christian friends, and I don't treat them any differently, with the exception of not discussing religion/atheism unless they start the discussion. I just can't help but wonder why they would buy into it! But it definitely does change the way I think about someone, and it's a strike against them.

John P said...

But intellectually speaking, I value Atheism above all religion, and I will always think differently about believers because of their willingness to forgo all rationality and support a superstition thousands of years old.

Is that bigotry? Or condescension?

Just wondering, because I feel the same way.

It looks like a feeling of superiority based on an intellectual reasoning process.

"I'm smarter than you when it comes to believing stupid things".

I'm not saying that's good or bad, just that it might look that way to theists.

The Anonymous Atheist said...

I don't feel superior but I do feel more rational. But I do see how it could be seen that way. It's a tough situation!

Cragar said...

Since the theists are in the majority, I pretty much have just let it go.

I think in a lot of theists' cases (not the devout ones) they choose to not look at the evidence as they are afraid of what they may find. They seem to kind of unintentionally play Pascal's Wager. If God exists, hopefully I did good enough. If not, nothing lost.

G-man said...

I'd say to just disagree with people based on how they approach things. I know Christians who approach their religion with a blind-faith attitude where they've never even considered applying reasoned criticism to their beliefs... I consider this stupid.

I also know Christians who have a very respectable approach to religion. I'm not discriminating against all religious people - it's just that when I learn more about their specific beliefs/bigotry, I begin to lose my respect for such individuals.

But yes, I think I have an automatic set of stereotypes that click into place as soon as I find out that someone is religious. Then I just hope that they exceed my expectations :)