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Should atheists fear religion?

By John MacDiarmid

John is a former Christian pastor and he lives in Poole on the south coast of England. In this article, he attempts to terrify atheists into taking another look Christianity.

As an occasional contributor to Humanistically Speaking, I always feel I have to confess my credentials. I am proud to be a friend of Dorset Humanists despite being a fully-fledged card carrying evangelical Christian theist. So obviously what follows will be a reflection of my standpoint.

So, should atheists fear religion? Interesting question that! Why should atheists fear belief systems that they say have no basis in reality? Why should they fear religion any more than they should fear the belief that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden? I want to suggest that there is indeed reason for atheists to be fearful of religion. This fear has two aspects.

First, there is a fear that those who hold to religious beliefs could have an impact on the life of a society, an impact that atheists believe would be for harm not good. Atheists could fear, for example, that religious belief would harm (as they see it) human rights, the legal and educational systems and so on. They could fear that religion would have a bad impact on our world.

I think that was some of the thinking behind John Lennon’s anthem Imagine. If you imagine (and Lennon was right – “imagine” is the right word for such escapism) that there’s no heaven, no hell, no religion, then, the thinking goes, we are “free” to build the world we want. Then, as Lennon fantasised, the world can “live as one”. What a dreamer! The song Imagine, and the philosophy behind it, is motivated by fear of religion. What better way to deal with a fear than pretend it’s not true? Yes, religion, including false religion, has a big impact on our world system. It shapes law, education, healthcare. If you are an atheist, it is a rational fear that the beliefs that you object to will have an effect on the society you live in.

This may deal with the fear of religion in this life. However, this is dwarfed by the fear that comes from the question: is it true? Could it conceivably be true? Is there even a possibility that it is true? Could this life be a forerunner of something else? When theists, including an army of Christian theist scientists, say that the evidence firmly point to the existence of a supreme being – could they possibly be right?

I attended a funeral this week. It was, broadly, a secular funeral where the large number of visitors celebrated the life of a man who had died before his time. His coffin was at the front of the gathering. Could there have been a person there who did not think, at least fleetingly: “One day that’s me… one day I’ll be the guy in the coffin”? And that is where the fear starts to creep in.

Supposing there is a creator, whose existence I have used my God-given intellect to dismiss?

Supposing there is a judge who will hold me accountable for everything wrong that I have done in my life? Supposing, furthermore that Christianity is true and that there is means of escaping the judgement I deserve – and yet I have willfully and deliberately ignored it? Supposing it’s all true? Supposing Dawkins, Hitchens, Fry, Gervais and all my atheist buddies were deluded? “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). Now that truly is terrifying.

But the door is still open: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christians are used to being told that their religion is a crutch used by people scared of life. My contention is that atheism is a crutch used by those who are scared of death.

Atheist – be afraid – be very afraid.

Editorial note

Humanistically Speaking is not the place for naked evangelism, but we have taken the decision to allow John to write this piece as an example of how Christian evangelists try to scare people into becoming Christians. Feel free to comment below!

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