If I don’t believe in god, why do I care if other people do? I hear this question all the time, and it drives me crazy.
Young-Earth creationist Ken Ham once said, “It is incredible that atheists spend so much time, effort, and money arguing against Someone that they don’t even believe exists!”
And Kevin Sorbo (star of the infamous movie, God’s Not Dead) said, “Why would anybody spend so much time ranting and raving about something they don’t believe in?”
That they keep asking this question just proves they are not listening. Atheists have listed their grievances over and over again. They’ve written books. They’ve given speeches. They’ve made movies. There are countless reasons why we hate religion, but all these reasons keep flying over the heads of the ones who claim to be care about us. If they care about us, why don’t they listen to us?
David Barton, the famous evangelical Christian minister, said of atheists, “If they don’t believe in God, then why do they care if we do?” Well, Dave, I’ll tell you why I care.
- I care because millions of good, hardworking people who struggle to get by are getting bilked out of 10% of their income.
- I care because naive people are being scammed out of their life savings by televangelists who shamelessly flaunt their jewelry, limos, and mansions.
- I care because churches get over $80 billion a year in tax exemptions, money that could be invested in medical science or renewable energy.
- I care because in many parts of the world (especially the southern United States), atheists have to hide in the closet because coming out could alienate their friends and family and damage their careers. In some places, such as the Middle East, it could even get you killed.
- I care because unbelievers are often excommunicated by their fundamentalist families just for daring to think for themselves. This has caused heartbreak for tens of thousands of people.
- I care because atheists are one of the least trusted groups in my country. Not because of our actions (some studies have shown that atheists commit less crimes than believers), but because we don’t share the beliefs of the majority.
- I care because innocent children are told they are broken and sinful and that they deserve to be tortured in Hell forever. And all before they’ve had a chance to grow up and decide what kind of person they want to be.
- I care because when you teach children faith rather than skepticism, you set them up to fall for all manner of scams and conspiracy theories (it’s no coincidence there’s a huge overlap between religious people and conspiracy theorists).
- I care because people are getting bad advice from counselors who don’t have any valid credentials. Religious leaders without proper training are not qualified to counsel people about finances, relationships, or emotional problems. In many cases, they do more harm than good.
- I care because in many states gay couples who have been deeply in love for decades are still denied the same rights as heterosexual couples who have been married less than a year.
- I care because LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide. As a result of the homophobia fostered by religious bigots, many gay children are bullied by their peers and rejected by their families. Some of them even buy into the myth that their homosexuality is evil. Then when they try to change and can’t, they hate themselves. This is a serious problem.
- I care because teenagers in the more religious parts of the country are taught abstinence only when studies have consistently shown that teaching children about contraceptives is far more effective at preventing the spread of STD’s and minimizing the number of teenage pregnancies.
- I care because women are told to submit to their husbands and not divorce them–even when their husbands are cruel and physically abusive–just because an ancient book claims the only grounds for divorce is when a wife cheats on her husband.
- I care because women in Islamic countries are regularly beaten, raped, and executed for the “crime” of going out in public without a male relative or spending time with male friends.
- I care because politicians who claim to be Christians are immediately trusted by gullible voters. This makes it easier for chronic liars and sociopaths to gain political power.
- I care because a third of Americans want to turn this nation into a theocracy where atheists and people of different faiths would inevitably have fewer rights than Christians.
- I care because many right-wing Christians want to expand the war in the Middle East and defeat Israel’s enemies in order to bring about the end times. Politicians who think this way are liable to make rash decisions that get us all killed.
- I care because young-earth creationists are attempting to stunt scientific progress by denying the discoveries of biologists and astrophysicists who have spent their entire careers studying the evidence. It would be one thing if they privately disagreed, but they are polluting young minds with the idea that in science you can choose your beliefs before you analyze the facts.
- I care because many fundamentalists aren’t interested in taking care of the environment because they believe Jesus is returning soon, anyway.
- I care because children are having their genitals mutilated because of a barbaric ritual from the Bronze age. And I’m not just talking about circumcisions. I’m also talking about the millions of girls who have had their clitorises cut off.
- I care because little girls in polygamist cults are forced to marry older men while being told it is God’s will. Cults like these are a pedophile’s dream come true.
- I care because priests rape children and get away with it because their church would rather protect its reputation than protect children from pedophiles. This problem is not limited to the Catholic church. It continues to occur because religious parents automatically trust “men of God.”
- I care because children are dying at the hands fundamentalist parents who eschew medical science in favor of faith healing or who don’t believe in life-saving procedures like blood transfusions. And because of religious exemption laws, they are getting away with it.
- I care because millions of people are dying from AIDS because Pope Benedict spoke out against the distribution of condoms in Africa.
- I care because even today, in the 21st century, people are accused of witchcraft and executed thanks to verses like Exodus 22:18.
- I care because Islamic suicide bombers kill people almost everyday because they are told they will be rewarded with 72 virgins in the afterlife.
- I care because Jihadists might actually get control of weapons of mass destruction and succeed in destroying Western society. All because of the delusional writings of a lunatic who lived nearly 1500 years ago.
If you’re a believer you might be thinking, “But my religion isn’t that extreme! I’m not hurting children, I’m not fighting against science, I’m not a terrorist, etc.” But you’re missing the point.
None of these atrocities would be happening if not for dogmatic beliefs based on unverifiable claims. And that is the main feature of religion. How can you prove that Jihadists’ beliefs are any less valid than your beliefs? You can’t because both sets of beliefs are based on faith. And with faith, there is no arbiter of truth.
When you teach people that faith is a valid means of gaining knowledge, they are liable to believe any number of absurdities. And no amount of reason will convince them they are wrong because they are not even using reason. If they had faith that 2 plus 2 equals 5, a full year of schooling in mathematics wouldn’t convince them otherwise.
This is why religion is so dangerous. Everyday countless people are abused, beaten, brainwashed, oppressed, raped, and killed in the name of religion, and there is no way to convince the perpetrators they are wrong. And worse yet, right now a generation of children is being raised up to believe the same lies.
Your religion might not be as extreme as the others, but by having a religion you are validating the idea that it is okay to hold dogmatic beliefs based on unverifiable claims. And by doing so you are helping to perpetuate all the evils caused by religion.
Some people will ask, “What about all the good religion has done?” I don’t deny that religious people have done good things, but it’s not because of their religion; it’s because they’re good people. There is no good that a religious organization can accomplish that a secular organization can’t. In fact, there are hundreds of secular charities working hard to help people and protect their rights.
Yes, good things have been done in the name of religion, but the bad things far outweigh them. I’m not saying the world would be perfect without religion, but I am convinced it would be a much better place.
So why do I care about things I don’t believe? Because I care about my family. Because I care about people. Because I care about the future of the human race and I don’t want the only world we have to be destroyed by the argument over who created it.
If you’ve ever wondered why atheists care what other people believe, now you know. Don’t ever ask that question again.