Hide your bibles and lock up your crosses! Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson are comin’ for ’em! They want to jam secular theories down your throat and force you and your children to deny your Christianity! And there’s a whole wing of militant atheists out there who stand by, waiting for the command, to bully Christians until their religion is stamped out from the face of the earth and everyone blindly pledges allegiance to evolution! At least that’s the narrative some Christian groups would have you believe.
Except that this is patently false. Nothing of the sort is happening. In point of fact, I would argue that even the most extreme atheists and scientists out there have done much less to impose their will upon society than the most fundamental of Christians.
A lot of the focus of this narrative rests upon Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. They’re portrayed as radicals who want nothing more than to make everyone an atheist and to replace all Christian beliefs and values with science, and they’re the leaders of this radical wing of militant atheism. They’re all over the airwaves, the internet, and your local bookstore’s shelves trying to convert you and your children to Godless, evolution loving heathens.
But what’s the worst we can really say about them? Dawkins openly and publicly mocks people of faith. Nye and deGrasse Tyson travel the country promoting science and encouraging people to question religion. So? Why is Christianity above the reproach of skepticism? But more to the point, none of these men have actually done anything that even begins to diminish or take away your freedom to practice whatever religion you want to. I can’t emphasize that enough. Despite these ‘radical’ atheists and their secular views, not a single one of them is spearheading a movement to deny you religious freedom.
There isn’t a single piece of atheist legislation in existence. There isn’t a single atheist proposal on any government dockets. Atheists aren’t running around trying to mandate that Sunday schools teach evolution so that students “can hear both sides of the story.” Atheists aren’t proposing a constitutional amendment banning freedom of religion. Atheists haven’t proposed any laws limiting how many churches can be built. And atheists don’t go door to door distributing literature by Dawkins and Darwin.
Sadly, we cannot say the same thing about some Christian groups. Because some Christians ARE trying to mandate that their beliefs be taught in public school–because apparently it’s bad to ‘cram evolution’ down a Christian’s throat, but perfectly acceptable to cram Genesis down the throat of Hindu or a Muslim or a Native American student. Some Christians ARE trying to pass amendments to the constitution of the United States that defines marriage how they want it defined and banning abortion, which they morally oppose. If you don’t believe it, look up the “Human Life Amendment” and the “Federal Marriage Act.” All very clear examples of Christians trying to legally impose their will over others. There is no atheist equivalent to this.
The teaching of evolution in a science classroom has no tacit moral or philosophical statement in it. Creationism is not scientifically testable, and therefore has no place in a science class. You CAN, however, scientifically test and observe the fossil record, DNA mutation, adaptation, and natural selection–the central pillars of evolutionary theory. The idea that there is no God is NOT a part of evolutionary theory. You can look in any textbook on evolutionary biology you can get your hands on and nowhere will you find a statement about whether or not a God exists. Christians are injecting philosophy where it doesn’t belong.
Because there are plenty of people out there who believe in evolution AND a God. There are multitudes of people who find no contradiction between a deity that created the universe and Darwinian evolution. For crying out loud, that’s even the official position of the Vatican! I know that I’ve blogged about this in the past, but it bears repeating that several Popes have publicly stated that evolution is a perfectly valid explanation for the biological processes of life, while the Christian God is a valid explanation for the human soul. So how on earth could evolution be pushing a Godless agenda? If you choose to interpret the issue that way, I guess that’s your right. But it doesn’t mean that your interpretation is correct.
And what about the vitriol? You hear that a lot in this narrative. That atheists are bullies, and they mock and ridicule Christians. That may very well be in some cases. It certainly is the truth when it comes to Dawkins. And that’s why I don’t like the man. I hate Dawkins. He’s abrasive and shows people little or no empathy. Luckily, Richard Dawkins doesn’t speak for me. And he doesn’t speak for anyone else but himself. Atheists of the world didn’t hold a secret meeting and elect him to be our spokesman. Just like I know that Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh do not represent the entirety of the republican party, so too should Christians realize that Dawkins does not represent atheists. And, just like those political talking heads, Dawkins is a squeaky wheel in the public conversation trying to peddle his books.
Besides, there is plenty of vitriol to go around, and a lot of it comes from Christians. Take, for instance, the Louisiana schoolteacher who mocked a Buddhist student in class and told them they were “stupid if they didn’t believe in God.” Now, I might be willing to chalk this up to one lone nut of a teacher…if it wasn’t for the fact that the superintendent of the school district backed up the teacher. When the family complained, they were told that since they live in the south they should just expect this kind of thing and if they don’t like it to move somewhere with more Asians. Say what you want about Bill Nye, at least he’s never been racist to someone’s face.
And that’s the difference here. Perhaps Dawkins is a jerk who mocks people of faith. But nobody is forcing you to read his books, tweets, or watch his interviews. You can tune him out of your life if you wish. That wasn’t the case of the student in Louisiana, who had no idea that they would be mocked in front of the whole class by a teacher. That student didn’t have a choice in that instance, unlike every Christian who hates Dawkins. And say what you will about how hateful Dawkins is, his words and his beliefs are not institutionalized, unlike the Christian beliefs in that Louisiana school district are apparently.
Encouraging people to be skeptical of religious claims is NOT the equivalent of an all-out assault on God. There is no atheist Gestapo coming to force evolution on you and wipe all traces of Christianity from our society. Encouraging people to learn more about science is NOT the same thing as religious persecution.
And certain groups of Christians should know a thing or two about persecuting people for their beliefs. They’re quite good at it. Did you know that in seven states it’s illegal for atheists to hold a public office? Who’s really persecuting who in this country?
In the end, this narrative has nothing to do with Dawkins or Nye, bur rather a secular boogeyman. This is about the demonization of science. That’s what this narrative seeks to accomplish. The more we can explain the universe and life through science, the more unnecessary religion becomes. And the numbers reflect that, as we move through history, people are becoming increasingly less religious. I’ll freely admit that there are a lot of atheists out there who straight up do not like religion and think that the world would be better off without it. But even the very worst of those people aren’t trying to pass laws enforcing their beliefs. I wish I could say the same thing for Christians.