Atheism could save journalism, democracy and your family
I know, I know, journalism is so bad that you don’t really want it saved or really see what that would mean – let alone have it saved by some evil abomination like atheism. . And we never had a democracy. And I don’t have to talk about your family, especially in the same breath as something as disgusting as atheism. But listen to me.
I think of the members of your family who think they should eat horse medicine or that the climate of the earth is doing well or that Iraqis, Libyans and Afghans are mostly grateful for wars or that black people are less intelligent or that Trump is Putin’s slave or Biden is Putin’s slave. You know who I’m talking about, the people whose beliefs are claimed by them as an indisputable right, whether supported by fact or by logic.
I am thinking of the general notion that beliefs are about identity rather than real facts. Sometimes I barely know what silly thing to do in the morning. Do I denounce the “lab leak theory” because a hate warmonger adopts it, or should I support the same claim because bioweapons developers denounce it?
Where did we get the idea that beliefs could be worn as outfits, and that I have the right to leave mine intact, no matter how unfounded or destructive they are?
I’ll tell you where we got this idea from. We got it from the Faustian bargain between religion and a society of individual rights. When people stopped believing that religious conversion would actually save their neighbors from eternal burn, and decided that respecting the right of their neighbors to profess “bad” religion was in fact the softer policy, they separated the religion of critical debate. Not that religion has been the subject of critical debate before. But just as it became acceptable to question a religion, it had become inappropriate to question any religion, due to their multiplicity and the preference to leave them all unchallenged rather than gently proselytizing. or to viciously lynch the members of some of them.
So we created this giant category of blatant nonsense that every individual has the right to ‘believe’, and we have never distinguished it from actual beliefs, and have never prioritized the need to engage. in respectful disagreement with open minds, willing – all of us – to decide on the conclusions best supported by the evidence. In a world where we all openly and amicably subject all of our beliefs to respectful public testing, beliefs in gods and saints and demons and afterlife and karma would disappear. It might do good if it eliminated all bigotry or made people care about the only world that actually exists (the world previously known as “this world”). But the major impact would be much broader in scope.
Every variety of bigotry could be subjected to critical debunking, as could any variety of quack science and any kind of political fiction. A society capable of this would be capable of democracy, or even better than democracy: consensus. I do not mean to say that all the questions would be answered and that the debates would be over. I just mean that we would tend to rely on the best available answers until we can find better ones, rather than relying on the worst and insisting that it has a higher value than the search for reliable knowledge. I don’t mean either that it would be perfect overnight or never; it would be an eternal struggle; it suffices to witness some existing atheists who have a lot of progress to make in the path of democratic discourse.
Reports from such a company would hardly resemble ours. He would seek a diversity of perspectives, rather than conformity, but subject those perspectives to honest and respectful debate, rather than declaring them political teams who can be joined based on their trivial preferences. People would thank those who changed their mind (and why not be grateful for the service?), Making yelling completely unnecessary and irrelevant. I very much doubt TV ratings will drop for lack of hostile name calling, or anyone that cares much. I expect new forms of media and public discourse to emerge, much less dependent on arbitrary authorities and many more authorities able to communicate and demonstrate their claims.
What if we all became atheists, would that be such a high price to pay?
David swanson is an author, activist, journalist and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org
and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War is a lie. He blogs on DavidSwanson.org
and WarIsACrime.org. It hosts Talk Radio Nation. He is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.
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