Overview:

If you're an atheist who's constantly arguing, there are better ways to use your time and energy in the post-religious West.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Enough already.

How many times do we have to take public issue with some chapter and verse in the Bible? How many times do we have to contest a theological story and say it makes no sense?

Animals upon an ark. Talking donkeys. God-men. Water into wine. Sacrificial deaths. Subterranean torture chambers of eternal duration.

It’s as if we continue over and over again to dispute the claim that a radioactive arachnid has produced a Spider-Man. It sounds something like this:

“The first argument I have against the Spider-Man is that the spider would die of radioactive poisoning within a minute of exposure to radiation. Second, even if the spider did manage to bite a man before it died, radioactivity is not strictly contagious via spider fangs. Third, even if the man did become radioactive through the spider’s bite, there’s no way the man could develop an ability to spin webs from his fingertips.”

We don’t have to do this stuff anymore. In our current Western post-religious world, our services as argumentative atheists are no longer needed. 

In the West, even in America, the culture is moving toward irreligion. Soon, the single largest ‘religious’ group in the USA will be non-religious secularists.

And argumentative atheists cannot really take credit for this irreligious revolution.

Most people don’t leave religion because they read an article or a book critiquing theism. And most irreligious people don’t remain irreligious because they’ve read an atheistic article or book. The causes of greater and greater irreligion are much larger than the contributions of argumentative atheists.

Instead, the movement away from religion involves massive cultural shifts with many moving parts.

The world is glistering with secularity. That’s your optic, that’s your topic.

Do you think the ancient Sumerian pantheon, reigning for a few thousands of years, became incredible because argumentative atheists publicly critiqued ancient Sumerian religion? Is that why we moderns no longer believe in Sumerian gods? Do you think the Egyptian pantheon, also reigning for a few thousand years, became incredible because an atheistic treatise brought it down?

No. Cultural shifts brought those religions down and made them utterly unbelievable to the masses.

The same thing may be happening today with our current religions. They’re wilting under myriad cultural maneuvers.

And so we must consider, what will we do as atheists who don’t argue with religion? How about we spin a new web? Retool. Say what we are for, not what we are against. When needed, we will address hurtful public policies for which religion is a mask but really arise from bad politics, bad sociology, and bad morality. We can more effectively oppose these hurtful outcomes if we don’t waste time trying to talk people out of their religion. That’s not how it works. Instead of devising yet another argument against belief, devise a strategy to defend what is of value, out here in the real world.

Cultural shifts brought those religions down and made them utterly unbelievable to the masses.

The world is glistering with secularity. That’s our optic, that’s our topic. Speak of anything other than religion. Write about anything except religion. Even as we deal with its real-world consequences, we don’t have to discuss religion itself anymore.

No more stale arguments riveted to the past. We have a hopeful, forward-looking worldview. We’re agents of the future. Let’s tell people what we’re thinking. It’ll be interesting no matter what we say. 

Religion will continue to persist, but we’ll shift our attitude about religion to one of discreet amusement, as if we’re watching cosplay at a Spider-Man convention, knowing that the fad may endure but it doesn’t deserve our full attention and energy.

J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religion since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic journals and the LA Times, Huffington...