If atheists came to major power would they try to outlaw religon?

I am an atheist but I always wonder what other atheists would do in a position of power, I would probably always allow worship. What do you think?

Posted: October 22nd 2008

Dave Hitt www

The best antidote for silly beliefs is to allow them and expose them. Persecution drives religion underground, where it flourishes. (Where would Christianity be of Jesus had been sentenced to 200 hours of community service?) Personally, I would take away their tax breaks, but otherwise leave them alone except when they are doing real harm.

Posted: November 13th 2008

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SmartLX www

Whether they did would not depend on whether they were atheists.

Communist dictators at least claim to be atheists, and they do oppose religion. That’s not because they’re atheists, it’s because they’re communists and their doctrine tells them the people shouldn’t need religion.

Atheism by contrast does not compel one to do anything. Individual atheists, like individual believers in any religion, can have as much or as little tolerance for contrary positions as they like. The difference is that an atheist’s tolerance doesn’t contradict any direct instruction in a holy text to convert, exile or kill anyone who disagrees.

Atheists in power, like everyone else, have to look at religion from a political perspective. It is therefore their politics that determine their policy on religion, not their atheism.

Posted: October 25th 2008

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flagellant www

It is very unlikely that atheists in general, given the opportunity, would try to outlaw religion. Only totalitarian regimes ban or strongly discourage worship. It is more likely that, by taking away the unfair props to religion: charitable tax status, constitutional advantages, and legal protection, the practice of worship would fall further into disfavour.

A few days ago, I went to an excellent concert in a major religious building. Already, churches are being used more appropriately; many are interesting architecturally and they, like religion, are part of our cultural history.

From time to time, I wonder what I personally would do about religion, given the power. I might consider subjecting it to advertising law such that its claims would have to be verified independently. I might also limit it to consenting adults in private.

I certainly wouldn’t ban religion, but I wouldn’t give it the implicit encouragement it currently enjoys in most countries, either.

Posted: October 25th 2008

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George Locke

A government with the power to legislate beliefs would be frightening indeed.

I often see that argument that if I want X to stop, then I must want to ban X by force of law. This is essentially a slippery slope fallacy. There are many ills that a free society must tolerate lest it degenerate into fascism. (I only mean that government is not the solution to every problem, and not that fighting such ills in the private sector is unwise.)

As for what atheistic ideals I might put into law if given the chance: I don’t see why religious organizations are sometimes exempt from taxes where secular non-profits are not. It’s also clear to me that attacks on teaching evolution are motivated by faith, whereas a central goal of science class (and education in general) is to teach critical thinking. I’d like to see some requirement that objections to elements of science education be firmly rooted in science themselves before they are given a hearing.

An answer to a similar question is given here.

Posted: October 24th 2008

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I think that people should be able to believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do as long as it doesn’t have a harmful effect on others.

So, if you want to worship a god, that’s fine with me. If you want to indoctrinate others or make laws based on your religion, we have a problem.

Posted: October 23rd 2008

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


I would probably always…

Arghh! Using probably and always together is a pet peeve of mine as they are mutually exclusive.

Moving along, in the secular cultures of France and the Nordic countries, religious worship is fully allowed (as is worship of football!). Paraphrasing A. C. Grayling, theism flourishes both in a milieu of oppression (as it did in Poland, though secretly) AND in a theocracy (as it does in Saudi Arabia). However, religious beliefs tend to dry up in a social environment where they are allowed, while simultaneously being soundly and consistently held up to critical thinking and not given any special privileges.

In strongly secular cultures, like the French one, religion is kept out of the public, tax-paying sphere as much as possible. Also, in one Nordic country there are efforts underway to establish a law that does not allow the teaching of any religion as being true (just as there are legislation governing the labels of medicinal items). One can certainly believe her/his religious brand is the true one, just not be able to teach that its beliefs (like all religious brands do shamelessly) are true (like evolution and gravity are). In addition, in secular countries there is an increasing tendency to encourage the teaching of the main non-evidential tenets of all the religious brands.

In dogmatic, non-democratic regimes (the Stalinist/Pol Pot regimes, etc.), the basis of not allowing religion to be openly practiced is that religious dogma is competition for any other dogma, including non-religious dogma like all city folks must be herded into the country, stripped of their eyeglasses, and killed in the fields through starvation, neglect, and murder as the Pol Pot regime did under the guise of agrarian reform.

Countries who have embraced the two-hundred-years old Enlightenment principles, will ALWAYS (Was that so hard, not a probably in sight!) allow the practice and expression of religious beliefs.

Posted: October 23rd 2008

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