Why reading comments on online articles isn't always a good idea - a rant

[This is a rant, written in a hurry and not proofread. If you're offended by the contents... meh]

I’ve been reading comments on articles about the ‘religion’ box on the UK census. Time and time again I see the following arguments:

  1. Humanists/atheists have no morals

  1. Humanists/atheists are more fundamentalist in nature than any far out Christians/muslims/whatever.

  1. Richard Dawkins is smug.

  1. Humanists/atheists can’t have beliefs.

  1. Humanists/atheists should just shut up.

Of course, none of these are really arguments that hold water. For a start there is a difference between humanists and atheists. Using the idea that Stalin and Hitler ran non-religious regimes that committed great evil therefore atheists are evil is utter bollocks. The regimes of Hitler and Stalin represent the views of Hitler and Stalin. It wasn’t as if Adolf woke up one morning and thought, “hmmm, I’m running a religion-free state, I better kill millions of innocent people.”

The idea that there is a fundamentalist church of atheism/humanism is equally flawed. The nature of humanism and the reality of atheism (even from the mouth of Richard Dawkins) is that a belief in something can and should be effected by evidence. Most theistic religions require a belief in the impossible (or miraculous) as a test of faith. Rationalists are usually ready to admit they’re wrong about something and adapt their views. This doesn’t equate to fundamentalism, which just marches on, regardless of the evidence.

Richard Dawkins is perceived by many to be smug and fundamentalist, but if you’ve ever read any of his books you’ll know that’s not true. Many people also wish humanists and atheists would just shut up and Dawkins is brave enough to stand up against that. Despite the scare story tone of articles that say secularism is taking over our societies, it is often hard to be as upfront as religious types without suffering for it.

And to say that a humanist/atheist can’t start a sentence with “I believe…” is drivel of the highest order. I believe we should treat each other with kindness. There. What was wrong with that?


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