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Why are those of Faith so Defensive

The frustration of engaging with believers

It doesn’t take a lot of commonsense to see that from couple of key words in the titles above that this article is referring to those of a religious bent. The picture aside, these words can polarize individuals at light speed and turn calm individuals into raging incoherent people that throw a multitude of psalms, passages and other religious commentary your way. But what stops them from holding a rational discussion about their belief and the lack of belief of an atheist?

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

― Epicurus

The internet is full of debates between atheists and people of various beliefs and various positions within those religious organisations. At one of the spectrum are theological academics trained in every aspect of their chosen denomination through to the somewhat questionably trained creationist believers. This last group are not often debated by the academic fraternity as their claims are already to ridiculous to warrant debating. Regardless of how many of these you may watch, the common theme from the religious side is that their religious doctrine is immutable. They fall in to the dogma of morals, intelligent design and the written word as evidence of their beliefs.

That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

-Hitchens

For those of us without the ability to spend years studying philosophy or religious texts, we have to face many challenges when questioning belief. Once a discussion is removed from that of a formal setting with intelligent individuals that are used to having their beliefs questioned, whether religious or of a scientific nature, things can breakdown rapidly as peoples defense mechanisms kick in. From experience, once this slippery slope occurs, be prepared to be hit with nonsensical comments and personal attacks. I am not one to cast aspersions on the mental capacity of another, however, it does appear to be a tactic that many a schoolyard bully would take.

I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.

- Russell

So should atheists not engage with those of faith for fear of being personally attacked? Many people are not wanting to voice an opinion on the matter of religion with others even though they may be staunch advocates of evolution. And this is OK. But re;religion can be dangerous, decisive, oppressive, insight of hatred and violence and extreme dogma. Doesn’t take much of a review of history to see that damage caused and less to turn on the television news to see what harm it continues to perpetrate. Of course it is always some other religion that is bad and never that of those you may be discussing with. It is for the reason outlined above that more of us should be vocal at all levels in demanding that religious ideology takes less of a place in society, governments and our institutions. Taking on those of the least able to form a comprehensive debate through to the Sam Harris and Stephen Fry to take on the ‘big end’ of religion.

Just because religion causes the faithful to live in a state of perpetual fear of a god, so should atheists and non-believers live in a state of perpetual fear of the faithful. Given the ability to, they would throw out the teaching of evolution and other scientific endeavors and replace with stories that are not much more than fairy tales. The separation of church and state is critical to a society open to inquiry and human rights. This has been a hard fought right and needs to be sacrosanct to all of us.

Don’t be put off by the thought of conflict. Practice makes perfect and therefore practice you must. I never stoop to personal attacks and have learnt long ago when the exit point arrives for halting any further discussion. I am also courteous to those I may be in dialogue with as I believe that my view is backed up with a stronger argument based on facts. You can’t win every battle though. I have been called all sorts of wrong and horrible names and it won’t stop me.

Fight the frustration and have an opinion. Look at the negative impact religion has and call out the faithful and ask them why.

Good luck!

Interested in history, culture, business and the pursuit of knowledge

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