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.