Starting with The Velveteen Rabbit, winding through the Bible, and ending up somewhere around Greek mythology, a conversation with a fellow atheist grew increasingly uncomfortable as she insisted that all fiction is dangerous because too many believe it to be true and act accordingly. Too, she felt justified in acting violently both in deed and word to rid the world of what she considers a plague of delusion.
I would agree that religion is largely based in that which never existed, and it would be great if more religious people focused on that which does exist instead of crediting and blaming that which does not. There are those religious, however, who have stepped far beyond their personal beliefs and embraced the needs of their fellow human beings. How is this possible when religious belief is so myopic? It’s possible because even though religion is myopic, people are not.
The rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbit probably never existed, but a few things in that story do in fact exist: dependence, scarlet fever, hope, and love. The moral of the story isn’t to hold the rabbit up as a god and hold scarlet fever up as the devil; it is to hold love in high esteem. If you do come across someone who holds the rabbit up as a god, how are you any better a person for ripping the rabbit’s head off in the name of reality? And what have you done for those in the world who suffer?
Yes, religion has been used to perpetrate some of the world’s worst crimes against humanity, but just as religion is not the source of all things right, it isn’t the source of all wrongdoing either. People are the source of that which is right and/or wrong, and it has never mattered to the recipient or victim whether the purveyor of the deed believed in God or got their idea from an episode of Friends.
Just as many a religious person will tell you God loves you whether you believe it or not, most atheists know they are dependent upon themselves and others for love whether others believe it or not. Unfortunately, and for some reason, a lot of atheists believe that this difference justifies their abject hatred and intolerance of religious peoples. Many religious credit God and blame Satan, thus relieving them of all responsibility for their thoughts, actions, misfortunes and opportunities. How is the atheist different who credits his/her fellow atheists and blames the religious?
In the end it is who we are and what we do that defines each of us. Crediting others with your good fortune when it was your decision to take advantage of an opportunity or blaming others for the unfortunate events in your life when it was your decision to do as you did is part of the human condition. It has nothing to do with religion or the lack thereof. We grow and mature when we realize and understand we are in fact all in this together while at the same time accountable for what we individually do – and don’t do.
I personally believe the world would be a better place without religion, but that doesn’t mean I also wish for a world free of love or to use my atheism as a weapon. Those atheists who think their violent deed or word is justified until this world is free of religion are just as guilty, and guilty of the same things, as any religious person who speaks or acts violently in the name of God.