Printed in Washington Post Magazine, Sept 30, 2001
Since I am an atheist, I would certainly rather have people in general be indifferent to atheists than hostile, but I would prefer a more engaged approach from journalists. Stephen Bates’s “The Unfaithful” [July 29] does not touch on why some theists consider it a matter of utmost importance that the world acquire more theism, or why some atheists believe the opposite with equal passion.
I see theism as offering a weak comfort to some in need, a shallow justification for some good work that people would be doing anyway, and a destructive force of great power crippling a wide variety of hopes and potentials. The ideas that everything happens according to someone’s plan and that death isn’t really death discourage people from working to improve their lives and those of their descendants.
Without religious thinking, we would not have such a hard time wiping out faith in the market and in Marxism, belief in the “unnaturalness” of homosexuality, defense of various destructive “rights,” adherence to principles and authorities even when harmful, acceptance of the status quo as divinely decreed, sexism, racism, glorification of revenge, and political apathy.