Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fundamentalist Christians and Atheists

The Punch recently had this excellent article by David Penberthy, where he discusses his annoyance at 'born-again atheists'.

I have often thought that fundamentalist atheists seem to have a lot in common with fundamentalist Christians. They're both convinced they're right and they both are determined to convince other people that they're right.

Not that there's anything wrong in believing you're right. Why believe something if you're not sure whether it's the truth or not? And I don't think there's anything wrong in trying to convince other people that you're right either. Most people who are trying to 'convert' others are convinced that people will be better off if they do convert. And this also applies to atheists who believe Christians or other faith adherents will be better off if they lose their beliefs. 

However, what annoys me is how angry, annoyed and patronising some people get. Or this idea that not only are their beliefs the only true ones, but that anyone who doesn't share those beliefs can be ridiculed or insulted. Or that one has to keep arguing their beliefs until people agree.

People are not stupid just because they believe something different. People are not evil just because they believe something different. We're all just people and we all have different ways of seeing the world. And maybe that's okay.

Now obviously as some of our beliefs conflict with others, some people have got to be wrong. That just makes sense. There isn't a world where everybody can be completely right. If two plus two equals four, then two plus two can't also equal seven. But arguing and mocking and looking down on people does not necessarily mean that you're the one with the truth. As I tell my youngest son all the time, shouting does not make you right.

The other day I was talking to an atheist. I hadn't really talked to her much before, but as walked home together we ended up having an interesting discussion about how she doesn't believe in God but I do. When we reached my house, we kept talking for a while afterwards - and this despite the freezing night-time. And not because we were arguing, but because we were enjoying the conversation. One of us is wrong. We both know that. Either God exists or he doesn't. He can't be real and not real at the same time. But just because one of us is wrong doesn't mean we can't talk about it civilly and respect the other person's beliefs.

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