Why this atheist is not an antireligionist

I recently read this prediction by a fellow atheist who was inspired by a recent news story about an Indonesian atheist who was attacked and faces jail time for expressing his atheistic beliefs on Facebook:

“[Like abolitionist, one day the term atheist will no longer be necessary as it will be the default state – a given – for sane people.”

Spurred by both the certainty in the language of this prediction regarding the future ‘default state’ of human beliefs, as well as the self-confirming description of a future socially acceptable sanity test, I engaged in a spirited debate regarding the merit of religion with the author of that prediction, Compassionnotreligion. While I sympathize with what motivated Compassionnotreligion to make this comment — concern over the welfare of fellow atheists who publicly challenge religious beliefs — I strongly disagree with his/her prediction regarding the ‘default state’ of human beliefs, and endeavored to convince that fellow atheist of my own point of view.

While I never expected to convince this fellow HuffPoster of the merit of my perspective with just a comment or two, I also did not expect that my initial reply would spur such a lengthy series of posts on this topic: nineteen by me (starting here), and ten by him/her (ending here). But in the process, I experienced once again how the depth of an emotional commitment by a fellow human being can blind a well-meaning and apparently rational one to how he/she is irrationally holding on to an idea that seems a bit extreme. And in this case, it was:

“[Religion] should be regarded as any other self-servi­ng totalitari­an ideology that has been used for mass control over the ages. Religion is a man-made concept and as such is it not just a form of devious behaviour?”

After briefly discussing that conversation with another HuffPoster, MilesToGo, who “practice[s] Christiani­ty, but respect[s] the validity, efficacy & salvific function of the other traditiona­l religions” and believes that atheism is “a perfectly understandable perspective and admirable if mixed with compassion­”, I came to the conclusion that I had failed in my lengthy exchange with Compassionnotreligion to convey something critical to my understanding of my OWN once lengthy love affair with despising religion. And I did so after reading this comment offered up by MilesToGo:

“[T]o argue that religion is a totalitari­an ideology is arcane sophistry replete with intellectu­al blinders.”

Here is how I replied to that comment:

“I can fully understand why [antireligionists] are seduced by the ‘arcane sophistry replete with intellectu­­al blinders’ that promotes that notion. At least, I am familiar from my own experience at having been similarly seduced for quite a long period of time by those emotionall­y appealing ideas.


“I say ’emotional­ly appealing’ because I have since realized that by letting myself remain too long and too often in a state of empathy, I was too emotionall­y weaken to be very, if much at all, compassion­ate.”

And to help MilesToGo understand why I am critical of being “too long or too often in a state of empathy,” I shared the link to this YouTube video posted by a life coach in Great Britain that I had recently run across:

So why did I think the issue of empathy versus compassion was relevant to Compassionnotreligion’s strident antireligionism? Because of this statement included in one his/her comments in our exchange:

“Whilst I too can see your motives are compassion­­ate, I think you are misguided and biased by your own indoctrina­­tion, and cannot see that there can be a way that allows NATURAL EMPATHY to flourish, without all the guilt, corruption and abuse of religion.” (emphasis added)

And it struck me that this particular antireligionist — whom I earlier mistakenly characterized as an antitheist— is likely…

 “too emotionall­y weakened by focusing on ‘natural empathy’ to be compassion­ately tolerant regarding religion.”

With all that said, I have yet to state why I am tolerant of religion, and in fact, encourage people to explore the depths of their faiths as their religions call them to do. I do so because, as I stated in one of my replies to Compassionnotreligion that I believe that…

“religion is, overall, a positive force in the world with respect to fostering compassion EVEN THOUGH human weakness can corrupt the institutio­ns that promote religion AND the hearts of those who claim to follow a religious faith. And the reason I believe this is exactly BECAUSE of those same human weakness[es] that cause people to forsake compassion­.”

Such as being emotionally weakened by being in a state of empathy too often and/or for too long.

And even though I did not specifically discuss with Compassionnotreligion how I think this might be the case for him/her, I have the impression that he/she is not interested in hearing such a suggestion from me based on how his/her closing reply in that exchange:

“[W]hat you are arguing for really is a philosophy that doesn’t rely on supernatur­al belief, nor devisivene­ss, bigotry, nor on a self-servi­ng ‘morality’ (of selfishnes­s masqueradi­ng as decency, and arrogance masqueradi­ng as humility). In other words, religion …with the religion taken out! Religion cannot be religion without these things – and if it were, it would no longer be called religion. YOUR INDOCTRINATION DOES NOT ALLOW YOU TO SEE THAT.” (Emphasis added)

Overall, Compassionnotreligion’s admittedly optimistic prediction regarding the future ‘default state’ of human beliefs, heavy reliance on the future power of natural empathy, and ready conclusion that I am somehow ‘indoctrinated’ by something that I don’t personally subscribe to (i.e. religion), reminds me of the following enjoyable but fanciful tale based on the seemingly supernatural healing power of natural empathy (if only the subject species would choose to use it):

And the analogy is complete for me when one considers that Compassionnotreligion (like the super-brainy alien scientists in this video clip) expects people (the humanoid alien female) to use their empathy to heal the world’s societal ills (Doctor McCoy’s injuries), and that empathy would apparently occur naturally (because the humanoid alien naturally has compassion for McCoy) once the manipulative influence of man-made religion (Kirk’s encouragement of the female alien to help McCoy) is banished from human thought (Kirk and Spock are trapped in the force field until the experiment is completed).

Oh, and one other thing: A societal healing power based solely on natural empathy is too alien to the nature of human beings.

But that’s just this religion-tolerant atheist’s point of view.

The Tightwire Guy

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