Atheist Vlad Chituc explains why he doesn’t really care about about getting the godly to give up their faith. He argues that “when we try to convince a stranger of something, it should usually be to make their lives or the lives of other people better”:
Over many conversations and many years, I might change a religious friend’s mind, but I probably won’t. If my goal is to make their life better, I’d be better off spending those years convincing them to wear sunscreen, cut meat from their diet, and get a bit more exercise every day. I’d certainly have an easier time of it. If I wanted them to believe what was true for capital-T Truth’s sake, I’d be better off buying them a physics 101 textbook than a copy of The God Delusion.
Though suppose my friend has religiously based views about sexual minorities or gender norms that I found regressive. Now should I try to deconvert them? I should certainly try to change their views, since I find them harmful, but it seems obvious to me that it’d be far easier to address these specific issues than the belief system their identity is built on.
Sarah Jones applies this perspective to Ferguson, wishing more atheists were working for social justice – a complicated task given place of churches in the black community:
An atheism structured around the belief that religion is evil, or stupid, or a mental illness stigmatizes people of faith by default. When you take aim at religion, you are not always punching up. In fact, you may contribute to the very problems you think you’re trying to fix.
And I’ll take this another step. Any perspective that promotes the idea that all people of faith are deluded at best and malicious at worst is actually incapable of accomplishing racial equality. It simply isn’t possible to fight institutionalized prejudice while repeating stereotypes that disproportionately affect members of marginalized groups.
That version of atheism is incompatible with humanism, and with social justice itself. It’s not even compatible with reality, since it erases the very existence of progressive people of faith.