November 2007

I’ve talked with you once before, but I had a pressing question posed by my mother, who is one of the common-raised Christians.

She asked me “What has Atheism done for this country?”

At first, I wanted to answer that we hadn’t had a chance to do much because of being oppressed, but that, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t sound right.

Should I just go with my gut and say that we are pushing for morality, reason, and logic in America?

Glad to hear from you again!

Your mother’s question is interesting, in that it is actually more complicated than it sounds. Her question seems to assume that atheism is akin to a religion — that is, that atheism is a movement with goals and a philosophy. At its core, atheism is just the lack of religion. It doesn’t set out to do anything. The analogy isn’t perfect, but in a sense her question is akin to, “What has not belonging to a fraternity done for this country?”

But even if the question isn’t perfect, you’ll still want to answer it.

If you want to present atheism as a movement, you can respond as your gut tells you to. The problem is that by doing so you somewhat validate the assumption that atheists are part of some big group. You will get lumped in with all atheists, no matter how nutty they are (and there certainly are some nutty ones!)

Personally, I’d answer something like this, “Atheism is the lack of religion, so it can’t really set out to do anything. There are lots of important people who were and are atheists, but they don’t do good things for atheism, they do them because they are good people.”

If she wanted to talk more, perhaps I’d point out that it’s not religion or lack of religion that do good or bad, but individuals acting on their personal philosophy, whatever that might be. I might also point out that I’m not an atheist because I think atheism is good — I’m an atheist because, intellectually, I don’t have a choice.

After that is out of the way, I might move into the items you mentioned. I’d talk about Moral Atheism and encouraging people to examine their own beliefs and lead moral lives. I’d ask her if she thought America would be a better place if everyone — religious or not — had a good moral system and really, honestly stuck with it.

I hope this has been of some help to you. Let me know how it goes!

Posted on November 20, 2007 at 12:00 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Atheists' problems

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