I love being a theologian. Studying theology is just awesome, but some hazards come from working for God. I don’t get paid much, people assume I’m a prude, and drunk people in bars like to tell me why I shouldn’t believe in God. Telling someone in a bar that you are religious, let alone a religious scholar, is a very dangerous thing to do. The two biggest questions I get are “why do you believe in God?” and “are you okay with pre-marital sex?”
We… aren’t going to talk about that second one.
The “do you believe in God?” question is often followed some kind of accusation that if there was no more religion then there would be no war, no violence, and all would be right with the world.
While most atheists I know are extremely wonderful and reasonable people, I have encountered a few that are rather militant, whether they are drunk or not. And this idea that without religion everything would be better really pisses me off.
I’m not denying that religion has its problems, but many times in history religion has been used as a smoke-screen for less noble motives like taking money, land, power, etc. But still this implication that our world would be better without religion comes up a lot in our society.
Supernatural’s meta episode “The French Mistake” shows Sam and Dean in presumably “our world” where they discover that there is no magic, no heaven, no hell, and presumably no God. Now, I understand while Sam and Dean would think this is better given their past experiences, but the boys immediately assume that somehow this world is better and maybe more peaceful. Dean even quotes my least favorite song “Imagine” by John Lennon, which asks the audience to imagine a perfect world with no God and no religion. This happy world is disrupted by Sam, Dean, and later the angel Virgil who kills everyone for really no reason. Seriously, watch that episode again—he just opens fire on unarmed people for no reason.
Star Trek is another series that supports this idea. The original series did have many religious references and implications that there is religion, and even much of the Earth is still religious, but there is every indication that Gene Roddenberry, an atheist, didn’t want religious overtones in his show. Later series like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Voyager, most obviously, support this idea of atheism and that the world is better off without religion. Remember, Star Trek is written as a Utopia; the Earth has managed to overcome its problems and one of those is religion. The episode “Who Watches the Watchers” is one example of this. Picard is mistaken for a god by the Mintakans. Worried that the Mintakans will harm people without guidance, Picard is asked to appear them and give them guidance, even though it would violate the prime directive. During this episode religion is only associated with inquisition and holy wars; nothing good like charity work or civil rights movements. Picard himself describes bringing these people religion as horrifying and further says:
Dr. Baron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement? To send them back into the Dark Ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? No!
There are many other instances of atheism in Star Trek and while I’m fine with Star Trek having atheistic themes, I’m annoyed with the assertion that religious has no merit, and that everything will be this utopian society once the “evil” religion is weeded out of our culture.
I don’t really feel much need to argue how atheism is not the answer to all our problems. I think South Park does it fine for me. Though Trey Parker and Matt Stone both identify as atheists, the South Park creators still wrote the episodes “Go God Go” and its sequel, “Go God God XII” that shows three different groups of atheists killing each other over what they should call themselves. The seeming moral of the episodes is that humans will always find some reason to kill each other, whether it’s over religion, or because “the French-Chinese think they have a right to Hawaii.”
Atheism is great, but it’s not going to fix the world any more than religion has. So please, atheists, stop implying that if my beliefs disappear everything would be better. It’s not true and it’s just rude.