Greta Christina wrote a wonderful article about why it's so important for atheists to come out of the closet and to refuse social consent for religion. She writes:
Religion is a bad idea. It can’t stand up on its own. But it can — and does — perpetuate itself through social consent. It perpetuates itself through people not asking hard questions, or indeed any. It perpetuates itself through dogma saying that asking questions about religion is sinful and will result in punishment, and that trusting religion without evidence is virtuous. It perpetuates itself through dogma saying that joy and meaning and morality can only be found in religion, and that leaving religion will automatically result in a desperate, amoral, pointless life. It perpetuates itself through parents and other authority figures teaching it to children, whose brains are extra-vulnerable to believing whatever they’re taught. It perpetuates itself through social and even legal protections that keep religious leaders and organizations from suffering consequences when they behave despicably. It perpetuates itself through religious communities and support systems that make believing in religion — or pretending to believe in religion — a necessity to function and indeed survive. Etc.
Beautifully said! She hits on many of the reasons why I can't seem to stop talking about my atheism and my anti-religious views. I cannot stand the fact that religion gets placed on this sacred pedestal and often remains unquestioned while being dragged into every facet of our lives. I see people thank god for the cure (received by a doctor, in the hospital) when a loved one recovers from a long illness, and blast "cancer" when he or she succumbs to it. Then I see an infertile woman praising god for her little test tube babies. And if I ask, "Well didn't god make cancer?" or "Didn't god make you infertile?" I am being snide or insensitive or just not really understanding something. Seriously, what do I not understand? I am a reasonable person and would love to know what I am missing by thinking god deserves the credit for famine, natural disasters, and diseases in addition to receiving credit for "blessings." Why would god create cleft palettes? And child leukemia? Why am I not allowed to ask those questions without being considered offensive? And what on earth do religious parents say to their children when they start asking these questions that makes so many of them stop asking by the time they are adults?
As Greta points out, religion makes believing something without evidence a virtue. This is dangerous. It allows a blanket answer for any uncomfortable questions about god by saying, "We don't understand god's plan," or some such nonsense. Seriously, does that answer stand up to any kind of scrutiny? Is anyone really okay with childhood leukemia existing because "god must have a plan that we don't know about?" Because I do not accept that answer. The thought that there is an all-powerful god that not only created leukemia, but could wipe it out and does not, is maddening and leaves me with a lot of feelings, none of them being love, peace or comfort. No one has ever, ever given me a reasonable answer for why things like that exist that could possibly support the idea of an all powerful god also being good. And I can't help but wonder what must be extinguished in a child to make her accept an answer like that as reasonable? When we elevate belief without evidence as a virtue and instill it in our kids, what else are they going to believe without reason?
So, I refuse to give religion consent to perpetuate itself. I do not believe any idea deserves to be on an untouchable, unquestionable pedestal, and I will continue asking questions and being generally disrespectful to religion. (As I've said before, I can disrespect religion without disrespecting the person who has the faith.) We atheists often like to hold up the story of the Emperor's New Clothes as an example of our experience with religion, and I think it's a perfect analogy. I am standing here listening to all these varied and detailed descriptions of his regal outfit, but I can still see the Emperor's pimply ass, and I cannot understand why everyone else doesn't see it, too. He's not wearing any freaking pants.