spike logo


Don't the New Atheists understand that proselytising is the problem?

[Bottom of Page] [Index] [Home]

Richard Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists seem intent on arguing that their world view is the only acceptable one and that everyone else must change their beliefs and become New Atheists themselves.

This, to my mind, makes them fundamentalist and as dangerous as religious fundamentalists who believe that they have a right to force others to believe what they believe.

My own view is that everyone has a right to believe whatever they like but they don't have a right to assume that everyone who doesn't agree with them must be re-educated.

I have a personal "bill of Rights" which goes like this. Everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want except that they must not harm others nor impinge on the rights of others. On this basis, every religion has a right to exist but its adherents may use debate to try to change the beliefs of others but they must not use any kind of force nor should they to force the society in which they live to impose rules which arise solely from their particular belief system. I don't mind the Roman Catholic Church having rules about contraception but to force these rules on others is totally unacceptable to me. A civilized society must establish a consensus among all of its members concerning the rules of acceptable behaviour. For example, murder is generally accepted as a crime by all thoughtful people but there is no unanimity about abortion.

I see the greatest danger in the world today as the assumption by some that they are right to proselytise their views by force if necessary.

After the destruction of the World Trade Centre on September 11 2001, I suggested that I could not find any difference in the positions of George W Bush and Osama bin Laden, They both asserted that their God had told them that they had a right to kill those who held different beliefs from their own. My daughter who was living in San Francisco at the time, was appalled that I thought this but I suspect that she now understands my position.

This tendency to violence in the name of "God" has been a fairly constant feature of the disputes between those of different "faiths" over the course of human history. With just a few notable exception, perhaps the Indian Buddhists are the best counter-example, religions have taken arms against the "Infidels" . The Crusades come to mind as a classic example and the "troubles" in Ireland are another. The local authority of Warrington in Lancashire, England had to insist the Protestants and Roman Catholics had their Whit weekend marches on different days to avoid the violent brawls which used to happen when the two marches intersected when they marched on the same day.

I also hold the view that most people confuse the human dimension of organised religions with the supernatural dimension. Fundamentalists of all colours claim to present the "word of God" when, in fact they are preaching the "word of man". I use the word "man" advisedly because women are almost always excluded from positions of power in these human organisations which pretend to be "godly".

I am not suggesting here that the New Atheist are intent on using violence but I do believe that they are wrong if they seek to depose religion altogether from all human activity. Rational debate about any issue is good but the use of force or even political power to seek to change the beliefs of others is barbaric.

[Top of Page] [Index] [Home]
Created: 16/12/06 and last revised 17/12/07
Author: Robin Chalmers Copyright in all the material on this site is asserted by the author
Contact the webmaster