Thursday, November 07, 2019

Why do atheists criticize religious groups?

Dr. Henry A. Ozirney 

Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Marty Nemko talks about the tendancy of some people today who would "otherwise 
urge tolerance and decry prejudice" but instead they "ridicule the religious:" Sadly, there are some people today who say they are tolerant and inclusive but who don't think it inconsistent to criticize people's faith in God. 

Nemko quotes Christopher Hitchens in his book, "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" in which he writes, "one must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody... had the smallest idea what was going on. It... is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs... Faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid."

Similarly, Sam Harris, who calls himself an atheist, says, "I remain convinced that religious faith is one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised. So we will, inevitably, continue to criticize religious thinking."

Nemko responds to this narrow minded bigotry: "It ofte seems wrong, even malevolent, to attempt to disabuse religious people of their faith." I agree and think Hitchens' and Harris' comments are mean spirited and unkind. Let me explain why I think that.

As a pastor for 50 years, I have seen many people helped 
by their religious faith. I have seen folks whose life has been hard and who have struggled with things like their finances, health crises, marital conflict and such. They then turned to or in some cases, returned to, religious faith because they had come to believe there is a God who loves them and can help them. For many, this has given them comfort and reassurance. 

Now here's my question: why would any well-meanng person try to take that away from those people? 

For others, their faith in God has given them a sense of purpose and meaning in their life. Previously, they had thought that their life had no purpose but now there is a smile on their face and peace in their heart. 

Again I ask, "Why would anyone ridicule them for that?" 

The list of benefits people have found in their religious faith can go on and on. And so, even though they might not share their sentiments, I think a good person would say to these religious people, "I'm happy for you" instead trying to rip it away from them.

Sadly, too often, the attempt to shake a religious person's faith is motivated by a desire to show they are right and also smarter than the religious person. Or perhaps because the critic is simply a spoilsport or a killjoy. 

Nemko concludes, "Fortunately, most religious people's faith. Is sufficiently defended that atheists and agnostics usually fail to disabuse them. But it may be worth asking yourself, "If I'm truly well-intentioned, should I devote my efforts to help humankind in ways other than to denigrate a person's belief in a deity?"

I think you would agree that that would be a lot better.