r

How Would Society Fare
If Theists Suddenly Lost Faith?

Frank

From: Frank
To: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Very much appreciate your web site.

One comment I will make here.

Although many of us "violently" agree that morality is a natural characteristic necessary for our species survival, I shudder to think about the state of our global society if theists were suddenly stripped of their beliefs.

So perhaps theism for the masses might be a necessary natural characteristic for our species survival to this point. Maybe it's best, at least for now, to let sleeping dogs lie.

   

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: Frank
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 05, 2004

I shudder to think about the state of our global society if theists were suddenly stripped of their beliefs.

I don't.

First off:

Stripped? This is unrealistic and also tends to bias the discussion by adding an element of fear (What the--? What happened!?). I can imagine a number of scenarios that would have this happening naturally. Let's use one of those (without fussing over which one or how it happened).

Before I do this, however, I must remind you (and the readers) that Positive Atheism is not about deconverting theists into atheists. In that respect, we are on the very same page. And we are this way for a reason; nevertheless, what follows is our opinion: we choose not to act upon this opinion for reasons more important than implied by the opinions that follow.

Briefly:

  

1. Their religious beliefs are not the same as their values. For example, explain to me what does Jesus dying for one's sins has to do with how anybody behaves, or Mohammed being God's prophet, for that matter. Unless those all-important doctrines are challenged or ridiculed (with predictable results), they don't affect a person's behavior for better or for worse.

In fact, the odds are overwhelming are that a religious person's values came from numerous sources, most of which are either internal to the individual or are based upon experience (which includes being taught).

If my experience and interviews are any indication, when theists "suddenly" (as you say) see that religion is bunk, when they realize that their childhood religious instruction was falsehood, at worst they become resentful toward those who would lie to them while in such a vulnerable state as childhood. Processing such feelings is quite painful for some, to the point where more than a few would just as soon remain religious as face this pain.

The above-described reaction is often felt simultaneously with a radically different response. Many theists I've known who deconverted to atheism felt grateful as well, expressing appreciation for having learned that the incongruities and non sequiturs that make up religious moral dogma are now explained -- as the incongruities and non sequiturs that they are! What a relief to know that this stuff isn't true, that the confusion we once thought to be reality happens to be just that: the products of confused thinking or a deliberate attempt to beguile by confusing the targets. How wonderful to realize that this is all it is, that there's nothing more to it. I could go on, but this is the main gist of my experience on that idea, and that of many who have.

   

2. Many of those who claim to be theists, who get counted as theists, who behave like one would expect theists to behave (going to the prayer meeting, etc, rather than any specific moral regimen or attitude) are not really theists at all, but are closet atheists, or theistic agnostics at best. I lost the letter when my machine endured a virus attack, but a reader in Teheran told me that fully 40 percent of the men in his country are atheists of the "There is no God" variety. They dare not admit this publicly, even to one another, but (he says) it's easy to tell which ones are not believers.

   

3. If everybody's religious faith vanished overnight, so would many of the reasons for much of the ideology-based hatred in this world. The hatred would still exist, and people would need to deal with it (and would now have a basis for dealing with it: they would be forced to come up with their own solutions).

  

The notion that religious faith is what keeps people from committing evil is a misnomer, otherwise those who are ideological atheists would commit more crimes than religious people rather than fewer. The only atheists who tend to commit more crimes are those who claim to be atheists because, as the Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics constantly harp about on this Forum, with no God to face, they may now "sin" with impunity. These, again, are rare. Most of us who think there's a God still fear this likelihood even though we try not to believe; the ones who succeed tend to do so by becoming ideological atheists, by studying the arguments. And along with the knowledge that there is no God comes the realization that whatever morality we had was put there without God's help. More importantly, ideological atheism tends to foster the realization that any good that will happen on this Earth must be performed by humans (and thus we'd better get busy).

Again, the most influential factor, I think, will be the same one which shows how those who are ideological atheists tend to be the social class least represented in our prison systems.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Entering our 10th year of service
    to people with no reason to believe