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Nonbelievers Rising

Nonbelievers Rising


Under the headline “Rise of Atheism,” AFP has recently reported on a British group that is selling “de-baptism” certificates.

More than 100,000 people have recently downloaded "certificates of de-baptism" from the Internet to renounce their Christian faith.

The initiative launched by a group called the National Secular Society (NSS) follows atheist campaigns here and elsewhere, including a controversial advert displayed on London buses which declared: "There's probably no God."

The response from Christian bloggers has been mostly laughter and puzzlement. Why, they ask, would an Atheist legitimize baptism by authoring a ritual to undo it? If it's meaningless, then an Atheist wouldn't care if they were baptized at a young age or not. Right?

One commenter argues that

The “debaptism” effort represents a certain breed of militant, confrontational atheism more concerned with vehemently disassociating themselves from Christianity than maintaining actual religious freedom.

On face, these objections seems reasonable. In fact, no Atheist believes that they are accomplishing any spiritual feat by purchasing a debaptism certificate. This is a publicity effort, it's true, but is not being done because atheists are militant. You don't have to be a violent anarchist to want to express your (dissenting) views.

Nonbelievers have just as much of a right to publicize their opposition to theistic views as the theists have to promulgate them. The societally acceptable reaction to the news that a Mormon is going on a missionary trip is to say something positive. Missionaries are a part of our history, and viewed by Christians as noble. But an atheist who offers a half-joking novelty item for sale on the internet is viewed as “militant.” Atheism is just not socially acceptable in much of the English-speaking world.

If atheists don't make their views known, and vigorously argue their case, they will lose the battle against religion. Theists have TV commercials, TV channels, missionaries, bestsellers, worldwide financial reach, political access. The truth is powerful on its own, but so far, religion seems to have the upper hand.

Believers balance the harms of religion against their conviction that it serves God's will. No one can deny that religion causes war, that is a source of division, that it fights against freedom and against the development of technology. The theist counters that if we must fight for God, we will, and that we must not save lives if it means “playing God” and that we must shackle ourselves to uncomfortable social restrictions because God has decided that it must be so, and that salvation is more important than survival. But none of these arguments hold force with us, and so there is nothing on the other side of the scale. Theism is an unmitigated harm.

Nonbelievers have to fight back if they believe that religion is not just incorrect, it's harmful. If it is harmful, it must be stopped, and the only way it can be stopped is if we speak out, debate, bring light to the reasons for and against. Selling “debaptisms” is not only not offensive, it is a small yet hard-won early step towards fully engaging the virus of theism.

This is not just about religious freedom, it is about winning a war of ideas. At stake is the future of humanity, and the future of life. Will we bury our heads in the sand, or unpeel our eyes? Can we begin to look out at the world around us, and choose our destiny?


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