- Why is it "disrespectful" to question someone's religion? It's not something they were born with - it's a choice they have made to follow a faith. Yet if you openly disagree or call into question their beliefs, you are being rude. How can we on one hand encourage children to be scientifically rigorous and logical in their approach to problem solving, and yet when someone wants to answer, "I have to leave school early today because it's dark and it's a holy day," or "I need to find a prayer room before 3 p.m." we all say, "oh, right, OK. Off you pop"?
- Tolerance. Why should I be tolerant of someone else's beliefs? Of course, I'm not the type of person to commit a hate crime - what would that achieve? But why should I accept that other people hold illogical beliefs without trying to understand and challenge the assumptions they're living their lives by?
- Faith. The old fall-back by the religious. "I don't need to know because I believe and that is enough for me." Well, it isn't enough for me. If I told you that my god was a pink sandcastle who insisted I only ate lobster on Wednesdays, you'd think I was a nutter. But because there are lots and lots of you who think that Jesus wanted you to chow down on his body and blood on Sundays, this belief is sanctioned, whereas I am likely to be sectioned.
I cannot recommend the book highly enough. I nearly said, "Unless you're religious and would like to hold onto that faith" (for the reason that I think anyone of even moderate intelligence who reads the book cannot possibly continue with their belief system as is). So why didn't I say that? Because actually I can't condone people holding onto their faith. So I think everyone should read it. It should be mandatory for all A-level students, regardless of their areas of study. I cannot believe we had seven years at high school of religious education and never studied Atheism.
I have many friends who are religious. Whilst in every single case, they are happy, lovely, otherwise intelligent people - I find it incredibly difficult to reconcile that against the fact they believe a magic man (or woman) created the world, is sitting and judging them and listening to loads of prayers at the same time. Oh, and that this amazing, amazing omniscient being loves nothing more than to be praised by his creations. Preferably on a weekly basis. What an egocentric tosser.
A group of Americans were polled recently and only 49% would vote for an atheist (whereas over 75% would vote for a woman, a black person, a Jewish person etc.). The Scouting organisation will not allow you to become a leader if you are an avowed atheist - although they welcome people from any other faith. I lead a moral life (because I believe we owe it to ourselves to make our short time on this planet as pleasant as possible), I mentor young people, I take part in community activities, I recycle... basically, I'm not perfect but I'm at least as good as your average Muslim and a whole lot better than your average Fundamentalist Christian. But I am not allowed to volunteer my time to the Scouting Association because I refuse to swear allegiance to an imaginary friend. Brilliant.
I'm Laura, and I'm an atheist. As I now appear to be part of a heavily-discriminated against sector of society, I've got one thing to say: bring it.