Do you believe
- that every single person, regardless of gender, skin colour, race, culture, sexual orientation, income, position, or any other superficial characteristic, should be treated equally under the law?
- that truth must be based on evidence and not superstition or power or money?
- that wealth should be measured by the good you do and not by the goods you have?
- that you should earn in measure to what you actually do and the merits of that work towards the well-being of others as well as yourself?
- that value means more than cost or price?
- that no one should go hungry?
- that health care should be equally available to everyone who needs it?
- that diversity should be universally celebrated but also tempered by the lessons of the past?
- that war should be universally recognized as an unacceptable solution under all circumstances?
- that education should be always free?
- that our actions should be based on understanding that the earth and humanity are not two different things?
Well, good! Most atheists believe in exactly the same things!
Of course, not all of you theists will agree. Some theists are also psychopaths or sociopaths (e.g. Anders Breivik). Other theists are terrorists (e.g. the Taliban). Still others are just frickin' nuts (e.g. Santorum, Bachmann, Perry,…). Still others are malevolent, deluded bigots (e.g. Westboro Baptist Church). And others are spineless cowards who refuse to stand up for what they themselves believe is right (e.g. the Vatican's silence while Catholics in Africa cause tremendous suffering and death by preventing birth control, allowing people to be burned alive as witches,…).
These malevolent and sickening theists are, however, relatively rare. They're loud and sometimes very powerful, true; but in numbers they are thankfully few. Most theists are good, kind, and honourable people.
Similarly, there are some atheists that are useless bags of skin. They're not really known as such, and they're generally harder to find, but they're out there. Here's one list of a few evil atheists. I'm sure there are others.
Thankfully, as with theists, most atheists are good, kind, and honourable people.
It strikes me, considering all this, that the conflict between theist and atheist isn't really one of religion or of god. It's one of well-being versus suffering. Among both theist and atheist populations, there are those who would live at the expense of others, who use their belief systems as drivers for intolerable acts of cruelty, pain, and death. But also among both theist and atheist populations, there are those who care, who work to make the world a better place for everyone, and who understand the tremendous benefits that we all gain from working toward general well-being.
I think the real battle - no matter what the politicians, pundits, and media sensationalists would have you believe - is not between theist and atheist, but between those who wish for a good life for everyone, and those who don't.
If you prefer, it's between good and evil.
So here's my advice: for now, let's understand that any theist can be good or bad - and that any atheist can be good or bad. We good people need to get together, to set aside differences of faith and religion, and stand together against those that will cause suffering on this earth. Let's make this earth as good a place as we can, full of people who are, for the most part, happy, healthy, and as fulfilled as we can let them be.
And when we have that world at hand, we can all sit and have a nice cup of tea, and discuss in calm, inoffensive, and rational tones, whether god exists.
Postscript: Those of you who fear I may be losing my anti-theist edge can relax. I'm still completely convinced the whole notion of god is obsolete. But I also think that arguing about god isn't going to get us anywhere till we overcome the common areas of concern among both theists and atheists, which all have to do with well-being in this life.