Christians, you’ve been having some trouble converting me to your religion recently. You run into the same walls time and time again. Maybe I can save both of us some time and effort with a little bit of a primer.
1. You can’t scare me into agreeing with you. It doesn’t matter if you think I’m going to hell. Or how painful and everlasting your description of hell is. Much like the boogeyman, there is no reason for me to fear that which I don’t believe exists. I don’t look under the bed for monsters, and I’m not afraid of your imaginary pit of fire. So, threatening me with hellfire and damnation only has the negative effect of making me believe that your religion is more deeply concerned with fear of punishment than actual good.
2. Using the ‘good book’ as a source of your authority only works on people that respect it. I don’t. So, while you can toss out dozens of passages that support your claims, none of them have much impact on me. Much like many Christian ignore those passages they find incompatible with modern life, I ignore the entire book from beginning to end as nothing more than a fable. Feel free to tell me what Leviticus bans or what Revelations predicts, but be forewarned that I really don't care.
3. Sadly for you, the reverse is not true. Having actually read the bible from cover to cover, I actually don’t have a problem throwing its verses back at you. Because you accept it as a source of authority, it’s perfectly within my ability to use the inconsistent, immoral, and conveniently ignored passages against you. That’s a double standard, I know. I'm sorry about that. But it's a standard of your own making because you allow the precepts of religion to have authority over you.
4. When I say ‘I don’t know’ how something works, that doesn’t mean God did it, nor does it mean that you have dis-proven all of science. There are two reasons I might not know how something works: A) I haven’t studied it, and simply haven’t researched the topic you’re discussing. B) No one has figured it out yet. Neither of these means that the answer must be supernatural, let alone evidence of your specific deity’s involvement. I don’t know means exactly what it says. The only way to involve your deity in the natural processes described by science is to demonstrate its involvement. As far as I know, to date, no human has ever done that.
5. On the flip side, just because you don’t know or understand something, doesn’t mean that other people don’t. When you claim it must require God, it really only means that you don’t understand how else it could have been created. Other people might have a perfect understanding of how that thing was created. Eyes, cell membranes, planets, stars, and any number of other things fall into that category. If no one else knows how it was created, you still haven’t proved the supernatural, you’ve just backed up to Item #4.
6. Continuing on this vein, allow me to mention that if you don’t believe in the answers science has provided us, there is a good chance you’re not very good at it. Big Bang, evolution, gravity, relativity, tectonics, erosion, atomic decay, etc. If you don't believe the evidence, you probably suck at science. Maybe you were never taught, never understood, or intentionally failed to comprehend in order to preserve faith. Whatever. Regardless of the cause, you’re not very good at it. For the purposes of our discussion that means you should tread carefully whenever you cross over into that area. For example, if you think ‘guess’ and ‘theory’ are synonymous, you should prepare yourself to be smacked.
7. Atheism is not a religion. To be an atheist requires no faith. The classic counter example is that bald is not a hair color. Alternatively, 'not collecting stamps' isn't a hobby. I don’t believe in unicorns, or a magical teapot orbiting Venus. There is no reason for me to believe in those things. No evidence for them at all. In the same way, I don’t believe in God or Santa. Attempts to portray atheism as a religion requiring faith are just an attempt to draw a parallel between the faith that the religious have in God, and my position. There is no reason for God to exist, as far as I can tell, nor any evidence to suggest that he does. That idea does not constitute a religion.
8. When you knock on my door, you’re not going to get my happy face. This goes double during the dinner hour, or before noon on weekends. Proselytizing to me by interrupting my life is not likely to have a positive influence on my opinion of you, and, by association, your religious beliefs. At best, you’ll get a door slammed in your face. At worst, you’re going to get my roughest tongue lashing, followed by a diatribe on how horrifically misguided your religion is, and how much evil has come from it. If you're still there, I'll follow it up with my specific feelings on the loathsome scum that have the audacity to think they have the right to preach to me in my own home. I recommend avoiding all of that by leaving my door alone.
9. Backing up, I’m a pretty decent person. I give to charity, I help friends and neighbors, and I am generally pleasant to strangers and treat them as I think they prefer to be treated. My morality does not come from divine revelation. I decide if something is good or bad based upon my own understanding. It’s easy to say that would allow me to do whatever I wanted. But in practice, it doesn't. More importantly, in my opinion, I don’t do so in the expectation of eternal reward. I’m doing my best to improve the world I’m in, because my actions here are all that will remain of me when I'm gone. Finally, because my morality is not static, it’s capable of adjusting to new situations, behaviors and experiences. I’m not forced to turn a blind eye to sections of moral code that allow for slavery, inequality of women and homosexuals, and oppression of non-believers.
10. Another important understanding you need is that I’m probably not trying to convert you. While it would be nice if you accepted reality (from my viewpoint), it’s not my objective. My objective is to defend myself, my beliefs and those of other atheists who are afraid of expressing themselves. Most of the time, these debates come about because someone on your side of the aisle comes across and starts stepping on our toes. Could be any number of things. Corrupting the educational process, inserting your religion into public funded programs, creating laws against people that don’t fit your version of moral behavior. Any of these things will have me come out swinging, but my goal isn’t to convert you. It’s to make you back off of whatever action set me off. All things being equal, I'd rather not have religious and moral debates with you.
11. Finally, I want to prepare you for something. On the outside chance, remote and infinitesimal as it may be, that you manage to convince me that your version of God exists, I will still not worship the Judeo-Christian God. Absolute knowledge that he exists would alter my understanding of the universe, but I still wouldn’t bend knee to him. Again, I’ve read the Bible, and that’s more than enough to know that he’s not the type of deity that is worth my respect, acknowledgment, or worship. So, even if you were able to successfully ‘win’, you’re not going to convert me.
I don’t expect this to help very much. But I figured this would at least get a lot of the standard things out of the way