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You are under no obligation to read opinion pieces about religion or atheism.

02 January 2013, 12:47

If the ultimate question of our existence bores you, please, you don’t have to read any threads about it. I have no interest in sport, so I just don’t read that stuff, I don’t post comments saying “enough sports!” even if it’s in the opinions section, rather than the sport section.

One of the arguments put forward by the people decrying religious, metaphysical or philosophical debate is “enough already! You’re not going to change anyone’s mind, just leave it alone!” this betrays the fact that they have never changed their own minds about anything, but have rather maintained the views that they were originally indoctrinated into. That they originally arrived at any of their opinions themselves isn’t likely, since arriving at opinions yourself would seem to preclude this taboo against forming new ones. People can change their minds, believe it or not. That is why we have such a diverse range of beliefs. Opinions and ideas evolved over time, they weren’t placed as permanent unchanging “kinds” by a divine creator.

By forming opinions for yourself, I of course, do not mean arriving at opinions completely independently, with no outside interference, which is another objection put forward by the advocates for shutting up about god. “This is my opinion” or “this is my belief” is meant to be treated with some sort of reverence, as if the very fact that the speaker holds these opinions makes them immune from criticism. Strangely, the beliefs shoved into soft skulls at a young age with the threat of eternal pain and gnashing of teeth is somehow exempt from the whole “do not force your beliefs on others” thing.

Many times someone will use the word “attack” or “force” when faced with a contrary viewpoint. To these people, any opinion other than their own is an assault on them. Curiously, their own opinions are usually not considered attacks on people who disagree with them. Many times this will be accompanied by the phrase “everyone is entitled to their opinion” which roughly translates as “you aren’t entitled to voice your opinion because it contradicts my opinion.” Or “that’s just your opinion” as if they were honestly expecting you to voice theirs.

They seem to forget the history of violent religious coercion and persecution that continues to this day. You are being attacked for your religion when you are not allowed to practice it, or are being actively discriminated against because of it, not when you hear or read someone rightly calling out your religion as bigoted, violent, primitive, and wrong.

The fact that we can sit down over a cup of coffee, or an internet forum, and we can call each other wrong and stupid without fear of violence means we have already won. It’s not many people throughout history and geography who are in that privileged situation. You don’t have to take advantage of that if it offends you, but why would you want to stop others from doing so? What possible harm can come from talking? The problem is when we stop talking, when we feel like there’s no need to discuss anything, because then we have given up; the other side cannot be reasoned with.

But the argument put forward far more often, usually oddly-paired with some mixture of the earlier arguments, is that the whole religion thing is just oh so boring. “It’s been done” “What’s the point?” This seemingly contradicts itself, by calling a controversial subject, if not the controversial subject, boring; how can something so emotional or so profound ever be considered boring? Well, as I said before, I don’t find sports interesting. Some people might find it exciting and even meaningful, but to me it’s just boring. Why can’t they all just learn to share the ball? I suppose there will always be those who point out how much sporting events cost, and how much better that money would be spent on science or social welfare, but aside from money put forward by the taxpayers to build arenas and fund sports programs (which arguably does have a positive social effect), that money is all earned through a giant interest in sport and people wanting to spend their money on tickets and merchandise. For someone to claim that they aren’t interested in sports, so the whole thing is a waste, is absurd.

Anyway, a quick visit to their social media page or other opinion pieces they’ve written will quickly dismiss any notion of religion just being “too boring” for them. Apparently a question that has been with us since the dawn of civilisation is not merited to be quite as interesting as lolcats, pictures of what they had for lunch, or long diatribes about how they really really definitely aren’t a racist, they just don’t particularly like this one teller at the supermarket.

“But what’s the point?” is another question “as long as your beliefs don’t affect those around you, why do you care?” all this while only this year a little girl was shot in the face for wanting to learn to read thanks to theistic law. Do you really think that religion doesn’t affect your daily life? Why do you think you can’t buy booze on Sunday? Why do you think you aren’t allowed to do certain things with your own mind and body in the privacy of our own home? Only in religion can a moral system be devised where there is a crime with no victim, an absolute moral law made to enforce human suffering rather than lessen it. We make up excuses for religion “the suicide bombers had religious motivations” “Joseph Kony kidnapped children for no reason other than his own ego” “circumcision lessens the chances of infection/hiv”  just so we can ignore its social impact.

Tell you what, I’ll leave it alone. We’ll move all religious discussion to dark secret underground bunker fight club style meetings and encrypted private p2p conversations just as soon as nobody on earth claims to have any right over the life, mind, body, or actions of any other person based on their religion. Once that’s done, I’ll lovingly hang up my keyboard. I’m not sure what you’d have to do to shut the other side up, probably convert the entire earth to their religion of choice. So it looks like it’s something that you’re just going to have to learn to ignore or tolerate.

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