Live and Let Live?

Why is it that no one can ever practice the Live and Let Live philosophy when it comes to religion? Why must we all go around trying to convince people of the rightness of our particular beliefs? Even atheists are doing it.  In an interesting interview at AlterNet, Richard Dawkins explains why atheists don’t espouse “live and let live:”

TM: People finally say, “What’s it to you? Why not be an atheist if that’s what works for you, and leave the rest of us to be as religious as we wish?” This, I believe, is offered as a challenge to your open-mindedness or your respect for others. You’re being called “an atheist fundamentalist.”

RD: “Fundamentalist” usually means, “goes by the book.” And so, a religious fundamentalist goes back to the fundamentals of The Bible or The Koran and says, “nothing can change.” Of course, that’s not the case with any scientist, and certainly not with me. So, I’m not a fundamentalist in that sense.

Why not live and let live? Why not just say, “Oh, well, if people want to believe that, that’s fine.” Of course, nobody’s stopping people believing whatever they like. The problem is that there’s not that much tolerance coming the other way. Things like the opposition to stem-cell research, to abortion, to contraception — these are all religiously inspired prohibitions on what would otherwise be freedom of action, whether of scientists or individual human beings.

There are religious people who are not content to say, “Oh, well, my religion doesn’t allow me to use contraceptives, but I’m quite happy for anybody else to.” Instead, we have religiously-inspired prohibitions on aid programs abroad, including in areas where HIV AIDS is rife, prohibiting aid going in any form that might be used to help contraception. That is religion over-stepping the bounds and interfering in other people’s freedom. So, religion does not observe this “live and let live” philosophy.

This response is exactly the reason why Christians can’t seem to leave arguments alone: because the other side won’t.  Christians don’t observe the philosophy so why should we? This is also the same argument for war. Al Qaeda won’t stop bombing and killing, so why should we? Yet, someone has to be the grown up and stop first! Unfortunately, neither atheists nor believers are going to stop haranguing the other first.  Why should Christians care if we don’t believe as long as they believe their going to heaven. Conversely, why should atheists care if we believe? I think we should all just shut up and quit trying to convince each other of the rightness of our own opinion. I could care less if anyone believes what I believe. I also could care less what others believe until it curtails my personal rights.

And this is the KEY. When fundamentalist atheists or religionists take it upon themselves to curtail our freedoms because of their personal beliefs, then it becomes everyone’s issue.  Yet, Dawkins can’t let it stop there. For the rest of the interview Dawkins and the interviewer comment on how pathetic the believer is, how deluded he is by his own experiences. Well, some pretty great minds were deluded throughout history; Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Hilary Clinton, etc. All claim to believe in God.

I think Dawkins needs to temper his arguments with a little humility (as should we ALL). After all, he, too, may be just as deluded as the masses he so readily condemns.


6 thoughts on “Live and Let Live?

  1. Just as long as you recognize an important distinction: acknowledging another has differing beliefs does not mean you have to validate those beliefs.

    In other words, as a Christian I believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one goes to the Father except through Him. That is an unshakable truth. So, I can accept that people believe in Islam, but I don’t believe they are correct in their beliefs. I can accept that people are atheists, but I know they are mistaken.

    This seems to tick people off more when I say it (mainly because I know the Cross offends), that I can accept they think differently but I think they are wrong. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong. But if Jesus said He is the only way, He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.

    All religions can’t all be right.

  2. Rob,

    All religions may be right. You don’t know that. Jesus does not have to be a lunatic to believe what he did and say what he did. But we can never be certain of what he said, since the bible is a collection of post-experience accounts written by a diverse collection of people. There’s no such thing as second-hand revelation, which the bible clearly is.

    Besides that bugaboo point of contention which I’m not going to debate, the lack of humility in people who are so certain they are right is the reason why no one will EVER settle this question. I think everyone should agree to disagree and leave it at that. There’s no need to try and convince anyone of anything, unless you trying to get brownie points with God or work your way to heaven. Most people who try so hard to convince others are really trying to convince themselves. We are adults and are free to make up our own minds whether people like it or not.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. You will never win an argument by telling the other person how stupid they are, or belittling them. Humility is not just a Christian principle, it is a good human trait to have most of the time.

    As Rob said above, acknowledgement is not acceptance. I can also acknowledge Christianity, but I don’t have to accept it as truth, especially since it has no more proof that it is absolute truth any more than Islam. This too is an unshakable truth.

    I was a born again believer in Jesus Christ for 39 years, but when I finally began to look at the Bible and the proof of Bible claims with a rational and logical eye, I could easily see that this book didn’t come from any superior intelligence. That doesn’t make anyone who still believes it stupid, because I was not stupid, and I believed it for 39 years.

    All I have to say is that Christians have been told all of their lives that to begin to doubt the Bible is to doubt a Holy God, or listening to Satan, or to begin to place yourself higher than God, or to not want to listen to God. However, what if, just what if, this stuff didn’t come from God? What if your doubts are not from a Satan, but your common sense wanting to get out of prison? What if a bunch of old polygamists just got together and wrote a story, about how God loves them, and how much they love him, and later translators changed the meaning of Sheol and Gihenna to mean and everlasting Hell, when it didn’t mean that at all to begin with.

    You are not stupid for having faith, but faith in something which cannot be validated does not make it an absolute truth. Just admit, it is not logical, it can’t be proven, and I don’t know whether it is true or not, but I just want to believe it just because I want to. That is more honest that to try and assert that this Bible is absolute truth.

  4. Hey Noogatiger,
    Did I belittle anyone? I certainly didn’t mean to, but you’re absolutely right. The problem with atheists like Dawkins and Christians like Rob is that all of their arguments seem to degenerate into name calling in the end and I hope to avoid that dead end road. What’s the point of that? Everyone should hold their own beliefs, keep it to themselves, and try to convince no one. Peace will then reign. 🙂
    Thanks for commenting.

  5. Mystery, I didn’t mean to imply that you belittled anyone. I was agreeing with your point of humility. You are right about Dawkins and those like him. They may have it perfectly right, but when you start calling people idiots, (even if they are), they are not going to listen to your message.
    That is why I avoid that type name calling at all costs on my website.
    Lots of very intelligent people are Religious. I just try and point out the absurdities in the Bible, and why I no longer believe it. It is up to the reader to make up his own mind.
    I do try and convince people that their is a better way to think however, free from all the guilt, fear, condemnation and fairy tales. I do want to show people that life can make sense outside this so called word of God, which makes no sense.

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