How to respond to religious ignorance
Someone posted this on Reddit/r/atheism (for those of you unaware of the existence of this site, go there immediately), and I thought I might take a few seconds to respond to his request:
I went to a Catholic high school and kept the fact that I was atheist a secret most of the time because I wanted to avoid any religion debates. My closer friends knew and didn’t care but mentioned it once when we were eating lunch with some other of our class mates. The response I immediately received from one of the guys was basically “How stupid are you? You’re atheist? Why don’t you go home right now and kill yourself. You already have nothing to live for.” I did not know how to respond and I let him just ramble on. I never tried to defend myself and I regret not saying anything. I still don’t know how I’m supposed to respond to another “Go kill yourself” type statement. I’ve always struggled with depression and I honestly don’t know why I shouldn’t kill myself. Does anyone have a reasonable response to say to that kind of person if that were to ever happen again? This happened a few years ago, I’m in university now and probably won’t ever encounter that kind of person again but it still makes me nervous thinking about it.
What’s a good way to respond to a religious person telling you to kill yourself because you are atheist?
My first instinct would have been to tell him to go fuck himself, but it seems as though you might be a bit more sensitive than me, so that probably wouldn’t have worked out.
I’m constantly surprised by how cold and callous Christians can be in regards to the wellbeing of others (despite their assertion they are somehow morally superior). Sure, I’ve made fun of plenty of religious people in my day, but I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to take their own lives for what they believed or didn’t believe. I would have lambasted this ignorant bastard for making light of what is still a huge problem with today’s teenagers. Suicide is no fucking joke. Too many talented, promising and sensitive young men (for it’s still mostly men) extricate themselves from this adventure we call life before they fully bloom.
I would have also asked him how his belief in fairy tales makes him an “expert” on the subject of “purpose”. No doubt he’s young, not terribly educated, and completely unaware of the world beyond his tiny purview. Has he even bothered to find out the majority of the world does not believe what he does, or lives how he lives?
When you’re young and inexperienced, it’s easy to have tunnel vision. You feel depressed and admittedly have perhaps seriously contemplated suicide. That’s not unusual as the chemistry of your brain is undergoing some radical changes. Atheists don’t have any sanctions against taking one’s own life, but I think the realization we only get one kick at the can should inspire all of us to live it to its fullest. Remember life is about having new experiences, and sharing those with people who care about you, and because you don’t live in a world controlled by religious dogma, you really can explore it in any way you deem fit.
Perhaps the real lesson here is there’s nothing you can really say to ignoramuses that will make them change their minds, but why would you want to? I feel sorry for anyone who thinks believing in magic is the best way to appreciate the beauty of this incredible Universe we live in.