Should atheists actively seek to convince the religious populace?
Debate Rounds (3)
If a person truly had faith in what he or she believes, no argument or evidence I provide would be sufficient. If not, then in this day and age they should encounter enough scientific and historic knowledge on their own over the course of their lives.
Therefore, while we should express our contrary opinion when religious beliefs come into conflict with scientific understanding, I think it best that religion be left on its own to very slowly but inevitably fade into irrelevance and obscurity.
I once believed that religion has done far more "harm" than "good" throughout human history, and I still believe that today, religion no longer serves any vital purpose in human society. However, I have come to realize this line of thinking lacks proper perspective. While today we may see religion, especially its practice by fundamentalists, as detrimental to human progress, at the times of their birth, they filled dangerous vacuums in human knowledge and society. People did not stop asking the questions just because science was not there to provide the answers. Therefore I see religion of one form or another as an inevitable step in human evolution, thus saying that it did more "harm" than "good" is like saying wars did more "harm" than "good". Both are unavoidable hurdles we have to move through to go forward, and just like how we still fight wars today, and probably will still for the foreseeable future, people will keep finding reasons for religion's existence for some times to come.
This does bring us back to the original question: to what extent should we facilitate the decline of religion? After all, the world as a whole is gradually becoming more peaceful, and we do facilitate peace through various means. So what about religion? Here I like to use the analogy to war again. Whereas action through economic sanctions and collective security is akin to improving science education, actively trying to convince the religious populace that their faith is misplaced is like fighting the war in Iraq—fruitless, counter-productive, and unnecessary.
History often repeats itself, and one of the patterns that emerged is that religions, especially Abrahamic religions, are most resilient and resourceful when under direct threat, whether real or perceived. It is this characteristic that makes "fighting" religion a lost cause from the very beginning. By trying to end its influence, we play into its hand instead by fanning the flames of paranoia, intolerance, and fanaticism. Instead, our approach should be reactionary rather than provocative. Thus not if, not when, but whenever religion attacks science for undermining its authority, we have the moral high ground of defending what we know to be right.
I do disagree when it is said that it is unnecessary. I believe it is all necessary, and very possible with the right approach. These religions are harmful, and unneeded. No one, not a single person, needs to rely on religion for anything unless it is for evil intent.
I believe that it is necessary to educate from the instigator, where the subject is brought up by an atheist, as well as someone defending against a claim made by religion that is against science AND our moral understanding of the world.
To summarise, it seems that our impulse to actively oppose religious beliefs stems from the knowledge that such beliefs are founded on fantasies and fallacies. So we reason that by actively exposing such flaws, we can make people stop basing their reasoning and morals on religion, thus improving the status quo. I have tried to show that in general, this is not the case. To those indoctrinated in faith, what is to us indisputable scientific or historical evidence, they see as uninformed or even malicious fabrications by man. We cannot hope to change someone's views when they won't even accept our logic and methods. Actively insisting on doing so outside of defending our own views would only result in a more hardened stance, reinforce their misconceptions about our motivations, and make us the crusaders and aggressors.
In the end, such endeavours are ultimately unnecessary because the virtues of the scientific explanation for the universe as opposed to the religious one is self-evident. In science one can predict and create, in religion, one can only believe and stagnate. It is for this reason that we can sit back and allow history to play out while being confident of the outcome—a world where people have realized for themselves that religious faith is no longer needed for understanding life.
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