Ever since I was very young I’ve felt an unexplainable drive to seek out , discover, and even defend truth, whatever that may be. I think somehow this desire translated into a fervent religious belief through my teen years and a lengthy role in defending that belief. That drive still exists, though my methods of determining exactly what is and is not true has changed entirely (from the view that truth was dictated by the Bible to the view that truth is dictated by the evidence is a pretty massive transition) and at this point I feel that the defense and propagation of that which is true transcends mere desire, but has moved into the realm of obligation.
For me, it seems that the atheists, skeptics, Humanists, naturalists, rationalists, and scientists of the world may even have a moral obligation to see that truth is not only spread (peaceably) but also defended in a world where the rational or empirical are often scoffed at – or worse. When religious or otherwise irrational society largely dictates both social standards and the political environment there are some pretty severe consequences for virtually everyone that has to share space on this planet with them. From homeopathy, to fundamentalists who refuse medical treatment for their children, to proponents of the Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy, and the denial of equal rights to homosexuals the majority largely decides what the rest of us can and cannot do, additionally these people will make victims of anyone and everyone in the name of their god.
As these things are clearly true and the victims of religion in many situations aren’t just the believers themselves, we – as rational individuals must have some sort of responsibility to humanity; to dispel the myths and lies of religion, and to defend those things that are empirically true from those that prefer the archaic.
How might we do this?
In my experience the best approach to introducing religious individuals to science and rational thought is by slow integration of the basic concepts of empiricism and the Scientific Method into daily discussion or discourse. Also, I find it beneficial to expose the Bible (or other holy book) as a flawed set of documents – planting seeds of doubt as to it’s veracity, this very process was tantamount to my leaving the faith. Doing this may not destroy faith all together, but when it sets in it is very likely to reduce the occurrence of fundamentalism individually. Also, encouraging an understanding of the history of the Church and the canonization of the holy text is very beneficial for planting seeds of doubt, as it forces one to consider the possibility that flawed men – as opposed to god – were building the tenets of the faith and as such may have failed at some point or that those men were simply building a faith intended to fulfill their own purposes or desires.
Establishing and improving the standard of evidence in the mind of the believer is also of utmost importance. Helping an individual understand why is it more reasonable to believe in the observable and repeatable as opposed to the foretold or written is very important as a means of changing their approach to all things.
To conclude – I’d like to encourage my readers to find ways to insert skepticism into the conversation when at any point religion comes up. When someone claims that they are being persecuted for their faith (Christmas time is the most common time for this to happen), challenge that claim. Make people think about the things they say – show people that words have meaning and that they will be held accountable for those words by rational society. No longer should we sit around whilst the majority decide the lifestyle of the rest of us; we must, if our world will ever move away from this affect change in the majority.
I look forward to your feedback on this one: Do you agree? How do you insert rationality into the conversation?