Evangelism is a term that has been borrowed from Christianity and applied generally to anyone who is "spreading the word" about a particular concept. In modern business, we see technology evangelists (spreading the good word about a new technology), project management evangelists (spreading the good word about new management processes), etc.
It may seem like a bit of an oxymoron to apply it to atheism, but I disagree. I think teaching people about atheism should be seen as an extremely positive thing. This article discusses why.
First, it can be objectively demonstrated that religion does far more harm in the world than it does good. Moreover, the few good things that come out of religion (such as helping the poor, caring for the sick, etc.) all have secular counterparts that perform the same function as well or better; religion is not needed for them.
Following are just a few of the reasons why religion is bad, and why every atheist should care about curtailing the spread of religious beliefs:
- Religion has a long history of trying to stifle scientific discovery and growth. Religion has always opposed change, even positive change. As a current example, religion opposes promising avenues of medical research such as embryonic stem cell research.
- It encourages teaching creationism in science classes alongside evolution, as if the two had equal scientific basis and support. (In many cases, it encourages teaching creationism instead of evolution.)
- Many religious morals are silly and arbitrary and cause significant guilt, doubt, and depression in believers. Whether it is feelings of lust, the desire to masturbate, eating meat on a Friday during lent, eating pork, turning on a light switch on the Sabbath, or not donating enough to the local church; these are not things that any human being should ever have to feel guilt over.
- Religion is a waste of precious time, money, and resources. Look at the billions or trillions spent each year on religion. Most of that money goes to building ever-larger and fancier places of worship, lining the pockets of clergy, and supporting marketing to increase their power and influence. All that time and effort could be put into things that would actually help the planet, like housing for the poor, getting medical care to third world countries, building up much needed infrastructure, medical research for cures to diseases like cancer, ALS, and AIDS.
- Religion fosters intolerance of others. Believing that your myths are the One True set of myths is very dangerous. This intolerance extends not just to those of other religions, but in many cases minority groups such as homosexuals and women.
- It creates martyrs for causes. Ever heard of an atheist suicide bomber? Ever seen someone kill an abortion doctor because their atheistic beliefs demanded it?
- Religions wield a great deal of political influence in trying to push their subjective morals on all of us. This is particularly true when it comes to issues related to sex, such as abstinence-only sex education, sexual practices considered "deviant", pre-marital sex, abortion rights, etc.
- Despite their political influence and all of their income, churches receive massive tax benefits in the U.S. They pay no income taxes on the money they take in, no sales taxes on the goods they buy, and no property taxes on all the land they own.
- In public opinion polls, atheists consistently rank at the bottom among minority groups. A vast majority of Americans say they would not consider an atheist as a political candidate, even if that person was otherwise well-qualified to hold the office. Several states still have verbiage in their state constitutions that prohibit an atheist from holding public office.
- Children are indoctrinated with religious beliefs long before they are old enough or smart enough to make such a decision. This is brainwashing, and some would say, a form of mental abuse.
- Look at the influence of the Catholic Church in Africa. In countries that are overpopulated and have huge AIDS epidemics, they are against sex education, distribution and use of condoms, and other practices that would be very beneficial to these cultures.
There are several arguments that atheists and freethinkers commonly give as to why we shouldn't evangelize.
People need religion to keep them on the straight and narrow, otherwise it will be anarchy.
This is pure silliness and I don't know whether to laugh or cry any time I hear a fellow non-believer spouting such nonsense. They are basically saying, "I'm smart enough to make simple moral value judgments, but most other people are not." It's just arrogance, and it isn't true: people make moral decisions all day every day. They don't do it because they are threatened with eternal damnation, they do it because we have secular laws, and because it is simple common sense!
For most people, their lives would actually be a lot easier if you remove the contradictory and arbitrary religious morals, and let them concentrate on the stuff that truly matters.
People should be allowed to believe what they want.
We aren't advocating forcing anyone to believe anything. But that doesn't mean we have to sit idly by while they try to force their beliefs and morals onto the rest of society. And there is certainly nothing to say we shouldn't be able to point out all of the problems with religion, or the contradictions in religious belief, etc.
There is no reason we should have to remain silent about our beliefs, or always defer to a religious person when they spout of some nonsense related to their beliefs. Just because someone is allowed to believe something, this doesn't mean you can't disagree with them.
We aren't any better than the religious fundamentalists.
Some atheists think that going out and being outspoken about atheism means that we are no better than the religious evangelicals, who we all can't stand and make fun of.
There are many fundamental differences (excuse the pun) that you need to keep in mind.
- You are not threatening anyone with eternal punishment for not agreeing with you.
- You are not promising them eternal bliss if they do agree.
- You are not telling anyone they have to donate money, join a cause, etc.
- You are teaching people how to use reason and logic, as opposed to convincing them to throw these things away in favor of faith.
- Do you believe that religious beliefs stand on equal footing with non-belief?
In the end, yes, we are both going out and preaching our views. Do you think your views are better? Do you believe the world will be better off if more people share these views? That should be all the reason you need. It's time to put your money where your mouth is.