SmartLX www

This may be a loaded question when encountered in the wild. It’s often asked, for example, by those who are trying to reintroduce prayer into American public schools, or those who want to preach to the military in the field (look up Stephen Baldwin and Operation Straight Up).

I’m all for freedom of religion/non-religion and freedom of speech. The objection in both of the above cases is that there is a captive, obedient audience in a government-run enterprise. The children or the soldiers would be forced to listen, and this is an unacceptable endorsement of a church by the state according to the US constitution. It mustn’t happen, or the wall of separation will have developed a gaping hole.

Posted: November 13th 2007

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George Locke

It’s probably fair to say that most atheists wish that organized religion could magically disappear, I do, but I’m confident that most atheists realize that denying people the right to religious practice amounts to fascism.

I happen to think that non-organized religion, meaning an unencumbered, self-guided exploration of spirituality, is a great idea for most people, and I wish more people would do it. I do this, myself, although I don’t believe literally in the existence of God.

Posted: June 25th 2007

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jonecc www

There have been (and still are) atheists in the world who do want to deny or limit the right to practice religion, for instance in China or North Korea. Stalin famously persecuted religious believers of all kinds, although he allowed the churches to open again during the war, so they could urge the people to fight hard against the German Army invading “Holy Russia”.

I don’t think you’ll find anyone arguing for that approach here, though. Quite apart from the question of human rights, which I imagine would be close to the hearts of all our contributors, religious persecution has visibly failed to achieve its goals. When Stalin opened the churches, millions went. Poland, which was subjected to enforced atheism from 1945 to 1989, is one of the most religious countries in Europe.

Most of us want to make religion history, but we want to do it by persuasion, and by making the world into the kind of place where everyone gets to choose whether to be religious or not without being subject to blasphemy laws or any other form of coercion.

We are concerned about the indoctrination of children. Although my parents were both atheists, they never told me what to think on the subject, never sent me to atheist Sunday school or cut off bits of my anatomy to symbolise the absence of God. It appears from western European experience that if people are raised in an atmosphere of indifference to religion, without any compulsion either way, but with a decent education and a level of economic security, the religious urge is largely absent.

If this is the case, then religion will have to indoctrinate to survive, and it does have a certain history in this regard. It is unclear what to do about this, but there are genuine grounds for concern.

Posted: June 15th 2007

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Not at all.

People can believe anything and practice anything they like, so long as it doesn’t impact upon or harm others.

Atheists object to the imposition of one or more religious beliefs upon society in the political sphere.

Secondly atheists feel that religion should be treated just as critically as any other idea in the public sphere and that it is not entitled to a “free pass”. Therefore any claim about how people should live and what laws they should adhere to should always be based on evidence and critical examination, rather than “faith” or ancient texts.

Many atheists believe that religion will disappear of its own accord if the education and economic security of a society is sufficiently high, therefore there is no need for “top-down” laws denying the right to practice.

The least religious countries in the world are in Scandinavia, where no ban was ever placed on religion. People stopped practicing of their own free will.

Posted: June 1st 2007

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