The social pull of religion
This is my latest blog entry, but since nobody reads my blog, I might as well post it here to see what other atheists think.
Atheism, Politics, Psychology, Religion by Alison — Leave a comment July 15, 2011
There are a great many things the atheist movement has going against it. Among them, is the greatest obstacle against getting people out of religion. It’s not a lack of education, or anything like that, it’s the social pull of religion. The old adage “get ‘em while they’re young” applies here. We humans don’t like change, old habits die hard after all. As I jump around the atheist movement, particularly on forums, I notice a great many atheists are formerly religious. Hardly a surprise, seeing as most Americans/Canadians are Christian. Not surprising to find out that they have friends and family who are religious either. Needless to say religion is everywhere.
This has dire consequences to the movement. One is that many don’t want to “rock the boat” and speak out against religion. This is wrong and you should never be afraid to speak out against religion, but that’s not what I want to address. The biggest consequence is that some may not even get to atheism in the first place. I’ve seen far too many intelligent, rational people cling on to religion. They have a brother, or sister, or friend or whatever that does hold on to a God belief, and the thought of giving it up is just too strong for them. They won’t be able to go to church for pot luck, or to hook up. They can’t go to Christian social groups and talk about jebus filling their heart. This is no small point. Humans are social creatures, monkey see monkey do. As an atheist, I’m disappointed that they can’t see the irrationality of religion or belief in god, but I do realize and understand the power of social cohesion. I mean religion is everywhere. People ask me to pray with them, or if I read the bible. I just tell them I’m not Christian, and they give me the look of how can she not believe in jebus?
This can be hard to shake. When I was Christians, me best friends were from some form of religious group. I ate at the chapel at my highschool, I was always eager to be part of prayer groups or others of jebus. That sticks too. It was hard for me to get out of religion, preciously because of the social pressures, regardless of how scientific my thinking. My best friend is Catholic and he regularly attends social events at church and is extremely intelligent.
What’s an atheist to do? Even if we do get religion out of schools, the kids will form social groups and prayer groups. That’s fine, but we need to offer alternatives. We can’t just point to religion an say “wrong wrong wrong”, we need to understand and appreciate the social pressures of being religious. Christians don’t want to disappoint their family or friends by saying jebus is like santa claus. When we get into groups, we want to blend in and share beliefs. It could be a swim club, but if a member of that club invites us to prayer group, we feel bad to say “no” because we are letting down our friend, by not sharing one of their beliefs, even if the other member doesn’t mind. That’s the thing too. They don’t have to force you or hate you for saying “no”, even if they’re ok with it, group dynamics will make you feel bad you’re letting down a member of your group. Your sister may love church and you don’t want to let down family.
We need to offer alternatives pronto. We need to say that you don’t have to feel bad for not going to jebus land with your swim partner. We also have to realize that it’s ok to express your atheism and even invite your Christian swim partners to an atheist meeting, just make sure the atheists at the meeting aren’t idiots. Hell, you don’t even have to invite to the atheist group, invite them to soccer or a BBQ, that way you can still keep the friendship without buying the religion. It will also get them to realize that they don’t need religion to socialize and make friends, and that could chip away at their belief.
That’s what we need. We need to cut down on religion one believer at a time. That way it’ll be easier to leave and most will leave on their own. We don’t need to banish religion, we need to replace it and minimize the social pull so that others are pulled to our side.