The need to debunk religion (the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humankind) and to spread secular reason is becoming more and more critical. The detriment and burdens to which religion has subjected society and the progress of civilization have long since exceeded an acceptable level of secular tolerance. Too many wars and atrocities have been perpetrated in the name of Religion and/or motivated by zealots of religious teachings. Things such as the persecution and/or impediment of scientific investigation throughout history, the Catholic Inquisition and Crusades of the middle ages, the Salem witch trials and burnings, Nazi persecution and attempted genocide of one religion by another, bombing abortion clinics and murdering their doctors, etc. And, now we have Fundamental Islamic Terrorism that threatens western civilization and wants to turn the world into a Theocratic Autocracy.
The passive “live and let live” secular attitude toward religion (not reciprocated) is a luxury that can no longer be afforded. The stakes are two high. In serious jeopardy, is our right to live a rational life in a rational world. A world that does not deny us the promise of extraordinary health improvements emanating from “embryonic” stem cell research. And, does not deny us the right to control our own procreation and life-span including birth control, a woman’s right to abortion, and the right to voluntary doctor assisted suicide.
However, an aggressive direct confrontation with Religion would probably be unwise. Because, it would very likely cause religious people to dig in their heels, close off their minds, perceive themselves as martyrs, and increase their resistance to anything challenging their religious beliefs. Rather, a more subtle, but persistent, approach is needed. One that sways them toward acceptance of secular thinking and away from religion and belief in the supernatural. Increased exposure to the basic sciences through more stringent requirements in high school science education would be helpful. Television science documentaries like those created by Carl Sagan and broadcast by PBS and others appear to be quite effective.
Though debate with religious zealots is in itself futile, it may help in influencing some of the observers of such debates to be more questioning of religious teachings. A religious zealot will never be convinced of the error of his/her thinking through logic and reason, but there may be hope for those that are not yet locked into religious indoctrination. However, all the logic, reason, and evidence in the world isn’t going to convince the vast majority of people who are primarily “emotional” thinkers, i.e., think with their “guts” rather than their “minds”, which consequently makes them more susceptible to religion.
Probably, the most effective way of swaying the vast majority of people into secular thinking is to provide a greater awareness of the growing size of the secular community (now about 15% or 3 in 20 adult Americans). And, there needs to be more awareness of those secular thinkers who are role models, celebrities, heros, or otherwise note worthy contributors to the enhancement of civilization. Every effort needs to be made to disseminate and popularize this kind of information.
More of this kind of effort is needed. And, we need to encourage more closet Atheists to come out of the closet, especially celebrity Atheists. The same way that gay rights was popularized by gay celebrities coming out of the closet could also work for Atheism.
Note: Christian apologist Donn Day has published a rebuttal to this article. If interested, see Christophobia (Off’Site).