Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs?

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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 provoked out of self-defense from something a theist is doing.
  • Most of the time, the people who make this claim aren't the culprits, directly. Atheists are addressing actions of the more extreme theists.

Limits of Belief

While everyone does have 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.

Beliefs inform your actions, and if your beliefs are in error, your actions are most likely going to be harmful in some way. While people can hold whatever beliefs they want, it's healthier for society as a whole if those beliefs are accurate.

Harm by Religious Belief

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

Problem of Casual Theistic Beliefs

The problem that casual theists (such as liberal Christians) cause can be indirect. Even though most theists aren't responsible for the above atrocities, what they do accomplish is establishing a sympathetic environment for such things to occur. It's much more difficult to sustain an extreme fundamentalist world view when one is surrounded by people who would actively hold the fundamentalists accountable, than when they're surrounded by those who let things slide because they happen to "believe in" the same holy book.

It's analogous to a damp basement being a conducive environment to mold growth, versus a dry basement.

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