It annoys me to no end when religious people claim that atheism is “a religion” or that atheism is just as “dogmatic” as religious beliefs. This will be the subject of a much longer article at some point, but until then, let me share a quick aside on this topic.
Here’s a key difference between atheists and religious people:
Atheists don’t need any mechanism of reinforcement for their beliefs. Since we draw our beliefs from the natural world, we don’t need to appeal to imaginary beings and reassure ourselves that they exist, despite overwhelming evidence that they don’t. We don’t need to speak empty words into empty air every day, while banging our heads against the floor. We don’t need to congregate in a large room for a session of mutual emotional masturbation where a charismatic leader (who actually refers to us as a “flock”) assures us that our beliefs are infallible and questioning them is pointless or even dangerous.
We never need to switch off our rational minds, or even put them in the back seat for the purpose of indulging ourselves in believing things that our ignorant barbaric ancestors tell us to believe. Perhaps the words “ignorant” and “barbaric” are too harsh; our ancestors did the best they could. The point is, the ignorance of our ancestors is forgivable. What’s unforgivable is clinging on to that same ignorance in our modern world. Even less forgivable is considering it a virtue to perpetuate such ignorance.
We are capable of drawing feelings of spirituality from the grandeur and complexity of the natural world. Instead of using our imagination to invent more intricate ways of deluding ourselves, we use our imagination to improve the quality of life for current and future generations, since we know that this life is the only one we get, which makes it all the more precious and fragile.