3 Questions – The Results Part Two

Posted by on September 10, 2012 in 3Q, Featured, Thoughts | 1 comment

The second question I asked in my 3 Questions survey was:

Why is it important to be vocal as an atheist, skeptic or agnostic (if at all)?

As with Question 1, I tried to leave this as open ended as possible to try to get a larger slice of the spectrum of ideas and opinions out there. If a person did not think that being vocal was an important thing for an atheist/skeptic/agnostic, the question allowed for this.

The overwhelming majority of respondents answered that it is important to speak out, but not necessarily about religion. Many said that it is important to speak out whenever we see an evil being done. Others said it is important to speak out when we see inequality being dealt. Others said it is important to speak out when we see misinformation being pedaled as truth. But the majority agreed, it is important to speak out.

I could quote a dozen great people from history that advocate speaking out whenever you see a wrong being done but I’ll restrict myself to just one: “..the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.” Albert Einstein In my own words I would simply point out that seeing a crime being committed and doing nothing to prevent it is a crime in every developed nation I know of. – FlyingFree333
All it takes for evil to prevail is for good to do nothing. If left alone, religion will only continue to oppress people and force secularists into closets. By speaking out as an atheist, I believe I am minimizing, if not eliminating, the harm religion does, including making it safer for secularists to freely roam outside of closets. – Matthew Chatterton
To expose the manipulative deceit of the theists who promote entitlement when it comes to the Earth’s resources, women’s bodies and the rule of law. – Atlantic Canuck

The majority of people answered as atheists in all aspects of this survey (which is not surprising, given my circle of acquaintances and friends), and of those who said it is important to be vocal about religion and skepticism, many identified aspects of the “cultures of woo” that are harmful to all societies. Religion, alt-med, anti-vax, misinformation about women and their reproductive systems, and anything that conjures up the unprovable and unfalsifiable is potentially dangerous.

Religion kills. Sure, it doesn’t often (anymore) kill explicitly, in that people kill in it’s name, but it still serves to prop up various beliefs/attitudes that do kill or harm. Homosexuals are persecuted. Children are raped. Women are made/kept subservient and so forth. Now, many of these things will continue happening even if religion disappeared, as humans are good at finding ways to justify their obscene behaviour. But religion is one of the ways they do so, and we should eliminate as many of those reasons as possible. As far as skepticism goes, the answer is partly the same, in that people waste money, and sometimes die, through “treating” themselves or their kids with things like alternative “medicine” rather than medicine. Especially in poor countries, where thanks to poorer educations, people might be more prone to exploitation in these regards – desperate to find a cure, and not equipped to distinguish between magic and medicine. We need to constantly remind people of some of the basic principles of scientific thought, like falsifiability, for example, starting at a very young age, so that people are trained to be more skeptical of dodgy claims. – Jacques Rousseau
It is. It’s important that good ideas are highly visible in the marketplace of ideas. It is also important for those self-identifying as members of these groups to build a sense of identity and a sense of community. It is important for bettering civilization to be vocal and to be persuasive, because there is goodness in encouraging others to be less wrong in their thoughts about this world. And it is vital for these isms internally, because they centre around ideas best explored by talking with other people, rather than merely thinking about one’s own thoughts. – @blamer

There is a large also emphasis in the answers on real and empirical knowledge, on education, on science, and on facts, and an importance to challenge unprovable and sometimes harmful claims.

It ensures that injustice does not go unanswered and that effected voices are heard. To remedy an injustice and seek to right a wrong. – Jake Farr-Wharton
It is important for all people who support methodological naturalism and secularism to be vocal, regardless of their religious affiliation. This world we live in has countless problems, and what we need is rationally reached solutions. We require discourse, experimentation, and compromise, not absolutist edicts from above. – Michael Larin
If society is to function efficiently it has to be guided by the best information available. Religion is inconsistent in it’s morality, offers false data as science & wishes to impose itself on people of other faiths. Because it is so inconsistent, arbitrary, restrictive it needs to be reminded that it doesn’t speak for everyone & can’t produce a truly fair & consistent system that benefits all It is also important to show people who they really are so we can see our place in the Universe. That way we can better adapt & adjust & perhaps become more tolerant of others. – Tom Alves
To resist the forces of ill-logic, irrationality, unreasonableness, and credulity. – Doug Reardon
I believe in sceptical enquiry and critical thinking as the most peaceful, progressive and useful forms of public discourse. I don’t care what people believe, but I do think that if people want to engage in public discourse, they should be open to critical analysis and should make an effort to answer sensible questions. – Nick
I think it’s important to challenge the intellectual and moral authority of popes, priests, etc., and their organisations. The social and political influence of religion does much harm. If we believe that religious claims are unjustified and probably (almost certainly) false, why not be honest and say so, with the consequent implication that religious leaders and their organisations do not have the sort of authority that they claim, and should not be given deference? At a time when religion is attempting, with some considerable success, to claw back its political power, this is a very good time to question religion’s basic credibility and credentials. There are good reasons, at this point in history, why it’s being done so much in the name of atheism. However, I should add another point. I actually think that many deists, religious sceptics, and so on have similar reasons for being vocal about the lack of intellectual/moral authority of religious leaders and churches. I.e., you might have some residual belief in some kind of god but still think that the authority of the churches is an illusion, and that the illusion is a dangerous one. After all, that was a common position during the Enlightenment. If that’s your position, then you, too, might have good reasons to be vocal. – Russell Blackford
Simply, if you care about other people then you should seek to minimise the harm caused by irrational and unfounded beliefs. Scepticism protects people from forming beliefs contrary to reality, which does not care what you hold dear. Incorrect beliefs about the nature of reality will result in unexpected and unwanted results, and it is these we should guard against. – Andrew Skegg

Some answers focused on the separation of church and state, and the importance a secular government holds in societies.

There’s a long history of religion causing strife in the world. Perhaps most surprising given its history of separation of church and state woven into its very foundation, the US in particular is wrapping a narrow Christian perspective into its politics and leading the US down a terrible, immoral path. – (name withheld)
The truth is important to me so I hate to see people becoming powerful or rich based on lies. I try to speak out so that people can at least know that they might be getting ripped off. I think internet atheism is genuinely valuable because of religion’s link to politics. Religion is more about power than anything else and a government getting in on religious grounds is my idea of hell. I think religion is far less problematic in a secular society but with America in danger of becoming a theocracy (OK I may be exaggerating a little but it seems like a trend) then it’s important for anyone immersed in a religious culture to find good, atheist people when they reach out in a moment of doubt. It’s not about de-conversion so much as giving people some thoughts to help them make their own minds up. If my blog on the 10 commandments (not yet written) happens to be the first a doubtful believer sees then I have done my bit. For that reason I am not completely against repetitive atheist tweeters though my own boredom threshold and need for originality means I don’t tend to repeat myself like some people do. It’s also good to be a vocal on-line atheist because it saves me boring people with it in real life! – Martin Naylor

Some answers focused particularly on the historical governance that religion has held in societies worldwide.

It is important to be vocal as anti-theist because people have been murdered, tortured, genitally mutilated, suppressed, persecuted, beaten, demonized, marginalized + abused by theism for 2,000 years + enough is enough! – Bexx Bissell
Considering that with religion – particularly theism – authoritarianism in all forms, tends to run rampant, I consider myself more as combatting ancient systems of authoritarian thought that have no place in contemporary society – but which are kept in place by virtue of being people’s religious beliefs, faiths, and so on. While I have no concern for what adults do consensually in their own home, it is the leaking out into social policy and law that is my worry and exactly what we must all be on our guard against – including religious people. With such systems of thought, policies would view women as property, not as persons; it would concern itself with the private sexual activities of rational adults (that prostitution and consensual adult incest, for example, is still a criminal offense indicates this); indeed, it already is hypocritical even in the most enlightened of societies where people can drink themselves to death but not smoke marijuana or have assisted-death. This isn’t directly the influence of religion – very little ever is DIRECTLY anything (remember the complications of reality?) – but it is an authoritarian view. And religion, especially theism, does enable people to think they know what is best for everyone else, without indicating actual harms or wrongdoing. These thoughts prevent people from killing themselves ethically, prolonging suffering to maintain the idiotic notion of the sanctity of life; they equate parenthood with love; being religious with being moral. Beliefs influence actions, they influence voting, they influence law and policy. This means they will impact you and me. I, for one, will not stand to live under any kind of authoritarian rule. – Tauriq Moosa
It is important because religion has such a long, entrenched history that affects almost every society on earth. As a species, we are now moving beyond these belief systems and toward a world of rational thinking. This change has been brought on through various factors including increased education levels, mass communication methods, and a generation of people raised with a global perspective. Atheists, skeptic, and agnostics have a voice in this new world run by empirical evidence and they can use this to lead by example: demonstrating to the religious how a moral, ethical, prosperous life can be had without resorting to unfounded beliefs. – Katie Melbourne

Education for the masses featured strongly too, telling people that atheists (in particular) are not evil, not out for themselves, and certainly not to be likened to Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler.

The assumption seems to be, even here in Australia which is decidedly less religious than the US, that if you question ‘woo’ or are not religious that you are simply out for yourself and don’t care about the wider ramifications of your actions. I think it’s very important to try to weaken and dispel these thoughts as much as possible. This means that people won’t always look to religion to solve social ills, which seems to happen far too often. Things like Christian Religious Education (CRE) and the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) are perfect examples of where Christianity is seen as the default and all else inferior. I think that this is dangerous and ultimately affects our children’s education and thus the future of the country, negatively. – (name withheld)

Some others find joy in helping people to see the shackles of religion for what they are, and rejoice in the knowledge that they have helped someone, or that they are not alone.

Encouraging others to come out from the shadows of religion brings me joy – foremost, that’s why I do it. I know this will sound churchy… but I truly want to save them and show them what the world looks and feels like through sober eyes. No person should have to live under the oppression and a warped sense of love of Religion. Not a single person I’ve helped “see the light” has regretted it. It’s very difficult to break from religion – its an addiction that messes with people’s heads and emotions… but when that light bulb comes on and they feel that first rush of freedom… that makes my heart sing. Religion has been using humans to feed a corrupted system for far too long… and I think it’s criminal. So I do what I can to help them escape. – Vonnie
It’s important to be vocal about it because it’s important to let other Atheists/Agnostics know that they are not alone. Also it’s important to express my beliefs honestly for my own sake. To be honest with myself and others about my/our beliefs. – Pedro J Del Campo
It’s important to me because it might give someone who has been too scared to speak up have the guts to “come out” or just realise that it’s OK to feel the way they’re feeling. I was very vocal on Facebook last year about various topics revolving around atheism and i was contacted by a member of the local church who said “I don’t think I believe in god any more but I’m scared to tell [church leader]”. This made me really sad to think there was such an element of fear. She never explained why she was afraid but I just said “If [church leader] is any kind of friend at all, she won’t judge you for your choices”. I don’t know how it went though…. I’m hoping she stood up for what she didn’t believe in! – Belinda
I think it is important because many people are not aware that there are “people like them” outside their own friend/family group – so many people who have found the more organised skeptical/atheist groups seem to share some variant of the “I had no idea/thought I was the only one/didn’t realise there was a name for it” type of experience. We have all felt some joy at connecting with other like minded people. – (name withheld)
The importance, for me, lies in encouraging others to think critically and analytically, therefore possibly enabling them to visit perspectives that offer greater insight in regards to the world and the society in which they inhabit. – Robin Vabolis

There were some who said that simply declaring oneself to be atheist/skeptic/agnostic achieves little, but that focusing on the causes of inequity and wrongdoings is far more important.

Simply being vocal about your atheism, in my view, is not very important. It seems to me that it is more important to be vocal in highlighting the dangers of or the hypocrisy within religion when these problems present themselves. That way, religion’s position of immunity from criticism could be challenged. At the moment, atheists should be fighting against the tolerance of intolerance that is perpetrated by so many in our societies. It’s not important to tell people that you’re atheist; it’s important to tell people why you’re atheist. It’s important to improve the atheist movement’s image and demonstrate that we’re a rational bunch. Simply demonstrating that there are many atheists in the world is futile. – (name withheld)

As you can see, there are many reasons people choose to be vocal about their atheism/agnosticism/skepticism, and the main feeling comes from a perceived  need for people to stop using the unprovable when making decisions, when influencing others, when enacting public policy, and choosing how to treat others based on beliefs alone.

I for one am heartened by the responses to question 2. It reminds me of the myriad reasons why I too am vocal about my disbelief and my general skepticism toward the seemingly unfounded and unprovable.

Thank you again for all those who participated. The next blog in this series answers question 3 which was “What are the political and social ramifications of atheism, skepticism or agnosticism? Should these movements embrace political ideas that are outside of the description of atheism, skepticism or agnosticism?” This question by far has the most interesting answers, and may result in a very lengthy blog piece indeed.

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1 Comment

  1. I am very encouraged to see that so many of your respondents see the need to speak out.  For me, the reasons why they came to that conclusion can and will vary, but are also less important, than feeling a need to speak out.  There are many great reasons to speak out.  Take your pick—but don’t stay silent!

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