I usually tend to agree with Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist on most issues, but sometimes he says something that I disagree with. Recently, he said something that I really disagreed with and quite frankly find bizarre. As part of his Atheist Voice series he answers the question, would you want to live in a world where everyone is an atheist. Here is the video:
Mehta says no, he would not want to live in a world in which everyone was an atheist. He states that atheism is part of his identity and if everyone was an atheist, then he wouldn’t have that identity anymore. Well, with all due respect, boo fucking hoo!
Would I want to live in a world where everyone was an atheist? OF COURSE!!!! Let me clarify this a little bit. I don’t think we should go around and purge all religious believers the way historically they have attempted to do to non-believers (and in some cases still attempt to do). But if I could live in a world where everyone has been educated to the point where religious is viewed in the same way our current society views psychics or those who believe that Elvis is still alive, I would live in that world in a second – my atheist identity be damned.
Look, like Hemant, I love being an atheist and it is a strong part of my identity but if everyone were an atheist I would make Humanism my identity and still advocate for that. There will always be things to disagree about, but if we can eliminate the really, really, ridiculous and dangerous ones, I would be super happy.
I’m willing to take the hit and lose my atheist identity if it means that the world would be a much, much, better place. Put me on the metaphorical cross and call it a sacrifice, but please let’s stop having to debate the truth-value of ancient texts and start having more real debates about string theory or how best to solve economic disparage. Instead of wasting resources fighting against the religious right on every step of medical, technological, ethical, and social progress, we could use those resources to actually make more progress.
If religious believers all realized tomorrow that their beliefs were all bullshit, the world would be much better. Churches might even stay open and continue to do the same community and charitable work that they do now, but without the religious bullshit. They would merely become secularized institutions with a new focus on making THIS world better instead of preaching about the next world. Hell, they might even get more money in donations because at the end of the day, people want to help each other live better lives more than they want to help themselves get into paradise.
Don’t get me wrong, I love getting into discussions with religious believers. I find those discussions entertaining and enjoyable. When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, they are the ones who try to end the conversation; not me. So I would certainly miss having those conversations but I would be able to have new conversations about better things. When I go to Atheist Meetups, I have awesome conversations about politics, science fiction, science non-fiction, philosophy, and many other topics. Those conversations are fun too. Many times we talk about how to make the world a better place and that is a way more enjoyable conversation than whether or not there is an invisible man in the sky who “divinely inspired” a book two thousand years ago.
To me, this is an obvious answer to the question and I have to say that I am shocked that Hemant answered it differently. I just don’t think he thought that one through. Even if we were to just have a city, state, or country that was filled with atheists I think that geographic region would achieve a better quality of life than religious regions. Of course, atheists did try this once and Christians came in to preach their Jesus. Atheists then kicked them out and were forced to become kind of fascists in the process. But assuming Christians couldn’t just come in and mess it all up, I think whatever the geographic region would be much better off without theists.
Let me give an example. When I moved to my current area, the school district was rated 7 out of 10. Now, we let religious right Republicans control the school board and our school district is rated 3 out of 10. You can argue that this is politics, but it has more to do with religion in my opinion. When you let people who reject the science of evolution control the science classes, we shouldn’t be surprised that education suffers. When you let people who believe faith is more of a priority than reason and that education is a threat to their indoctrination, then obviously education is going to suffer.
Imagine if we had a school board of scientific minded atheists — people who truly value education and who want to encourage critical thinking and scientific progress. We wouldn’t have to fight about censoring Harry Potter because some people believe it is demonic. We would be fighting about the effectiveness of various teaching methods and optimal class sizes.
So yeah, I would like to live in a world without religious believers. That would be awesome. Atheism obviously won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it would be a huge start. There would still be things to argue about and I would have to change my personal identity slightly, but fuck yeah I would pick that world in a heartbeat. Wouldn’t you?