Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs?

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Overview

A common objection to atheist activism is that atheists are attempting to disallow theists from having their beliefs. The atheist is often asked, "Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs?" Many theists assert that their beliefs are harmless, and, most of the time, they are indeed harmless. This objection arises due to a few misunderstandings:

  • Atheists aren't attempting to ban theistic beliefs, per se. Most of the time, addressing theistic beliefs is a means of self-defense against actions of theists.
  • Most of the time, the people who make this claim aren't the ones directly harming society. Atheists are generally addressing actions of the more extreme theists.

Limits of Belief

While everyone necessarily has their own beliefs, not all beliefs are equally valid, nor do they equally reflect reality. An incorrect belief may occasionally be harmless, but it can also directly result in negative consequences. Pointing out the fallacious reasoning behind such beliefs need not be seen as "harsh" or "offensive". If someone is so insecure in his or her beliefs as to be unable to handle criticism, these beliefs probably lack a rational foundation.

Beliefs inform your actions, and if your beliefs are in error, your actions are more likely to be harmful in some way. While people obviously can hold whatever beliefs they want, it is healthier for society as a whole if those beliefs are accurate. If faith is the basis for one's beliefs and is what determines agency in the world, then we should strive to hold beliefs that are accurate.

Harm by Religious Belief

The following is a list of harm caused by religious beliefs. This counters the idea that theistic beliefs are harmless.

Problem of Casual Theistic Beliefs

Casual theists (such as liberal Christians) contribute indirectly to many of the atrocities above. Even though most theists aren't responsible for such atrocities, their presence helps to establish an environment sympathetic to religiously motivated actions likely to cause harm. Just as a damp basement is an environment more conducive to mold growth than a dry basement, a society infused with casual theistic belief is an environment more conducive to dangerous theistic actions than a society without religious beliefs.


v · d Common objections to atheism and counter-apologetics
Personal   Why are you trying to tear down other people's faith? · Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs? · What are your qualifications? · Atheists believe in nothing · You are a communist · Why do atheists inspire such hatred? · That's not my God
Religious   That's not in my Bible · They're not true Christians · You just want to sin · Atheists know there is a God · It takes more faith to disbelieve than it does to believe · God doesn't believe in atheists · Science is a faith · Atheism is a religion · Atheists worship materialism · Hypocrisy of celebrating religious holidays · Atheism is based on faith
Science and logic   You can't prove God doesn't exist · Science can't touch god · God can't be defined · So you think we came from nothing / pondsoup / monkeys? · If God didn't create everything, who did? · That might be true for you, but its not true for me · Religion is another way of knowing · God is trying to trick you with dinosaur bones · Satan is trying to trick you with dinosaur bones · Tides come in, tides go out. You can't explain that.
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