Why Do You Study
About Not Believing?
From: David Dodd
To: Positive Atheism
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2001 12:10 PM
A friend at work has noticed that I have been reading up a lot on atheism. He asked a question that I did not have the answer to. And that question was, why do I spend so much time reading about not believing in religion while he, a Catholic who takes religion at his own speed, doesn't really care about his. What kind of response could I give to a question like this if I was asked by some other person?
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "David Dodd"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 6:29 PM
This is a question for you to answer, because only you can say what your motive could be.
I keep up on the counter-arguments against religion simply because it's my job. I also do it to protect myself from the wiles of these opportunists who are extremely skilled at triggering emotions which could lead to my conversion. It has happened before. I also need to vanquish those "vestigial fears of hell" that Burgess talked about. Most of what I read is designed to help me hone my thinking processes, much like going to Gold's Gym, but for the brain. Finally, I find some of the Freethought literature to be fascinating. Much of it is garbage, to be sure, but some of it is truly amazing.
If you recently became an atheist, it makes sense that you'd want to understand what you're getting into (or have gotten yourself into). It is a good thing to know one's heritage. In the same sense, were I to convert to, say, Mormonism, you could expect me to spend a lot of time trying to catch up with my brethren in my understanding of the Mormon faith. (With some religions, including Roman Catholicism and Mormonism, I can see them not wanting you to dig too deep; for you to tell me that a Religionist criticized you for studying your philosophical outlook makes sense to me.)
In the same sense, if I had suddenly realized that the Mormon religion is falsehood, that I'd been deceived, this news would not be easy on me: one could expect me to spend a lot of time making sure I wasn't making another mistake. I would probably start by studying criticism of the Mormon religion, and then would likely be susceptible to whatever thinking was left after I vanquished my faith in Mormonism. Some ex-Mormons replace this with Evangelical Christianity or Roman Catholicism or even the views of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Others get lucky and are exposed to atheism (or come to a rejection of faith on their own).
It is important, though, to quickly learn to choose which Freethought literature you will spend your time reading (with which you will inevitably fill your mind). I shun the vindictive tirades for thoughtful examinations and exposés, as well as material which nurtures my sense of morality and helps me develop my thinking skills.
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