Today the same-sex marriage “debate” went to the Supreme Court. In support of marriage equality, vast numbers of people on Facebook put up the following symbol as their profile picture:
Now consider the following Pew survey result from 2012:
As the numbers show, 89% of atheists and agnostics were in favor of same-sex marriage, while 76% of white evangelicals were against it. Yet on the news, one rarely ever hears about atheist groups talking about their support for same-sex marriage, while you hear religious people speak against it all the time. Granted, the religious in America outnumber the nonreligious by large margin, but why does the atheist crowd seem silent in comparison?
Atheists Are Too Far Ahead of the Pack
While there are many factors that help to explain the apparent silence of atheists (such as the taboo on religion, or the societal distrust), one additional factor, which is to my knowledge so far unspoken, is that atheists have already considered this issue, overwhelmingly taken the side supporting it, and then moved on. To them it is absurd that there is still a debate about it, and it is absurd in a 21st century society, those viewed as different are still being discriminated against by the law.
This was at least the case for me. Though I am straight, I have always been a supporter of the LGBT movement, but I was under the impression that any year now society would adapt, so up to this point I have been completely silent on this issue. I thought it would take care of itself as people got used to it. But apparently not: We as a society are still seriously bickering about it in 2013.
In the meantime, I was more primarily interested in the issues of education and the environment, two issues that really should deserve attention. I think that, from a societal perspective, the war of and on LGBT rights is a waste of time. We could be focusing our attention to saving the environment or bettering the education of the future generation; instead, we devote much time and resources on a social issue that frankly should have been finished decades ago. I can certainly understand why it is an important social movement. But in the back of my head, I can’t help but to think that every minute this “debate” on same-sex marriage drags on, the more messed up the Earth’s environment becomes, and the more difficult it will be in the future to fix it. And so on.
I think this is one significant factor in the apparent silence of the atheists. They have already thought about these social issues a long time ago and do not want to waste their time re-debating it now. Or they cannot understand why someone would be so against such movements in the first place, as they did not grow up learning lessons from a bigoted holy book instructing them to be against such movements.
Similar to this “debate” are the “debates” on the issues of women’s rights and abortion (both in the US and around the world). In the big picture, they are just wastes of time, just as a “debate” about whether we should teach children that the world is round is a waste of time. (If you were wondering why I use the word “debate” in quotations, here’s why.) Don’t get me wrong—I support both movements, but I find it appalling that it is still in issue in the year 2013. It is really very simple. Women should have equal rights to men, and women should have the right to choose. These questions should have been settled decades ago so that we do not need to spend our efforts on it now.
This is the 21st century. Grant everyone equality, and move on to more pressing issues.
Now what does this have to do with atheism or religion? Well, the primary force holding back the LGBT movement, women’s rights, or their right to choose, is in all cases religious beliefs. The poll results (from earlier in the article) are very telling. The atheist/agnostic vote favors marriage equality 89% to 7%. Even though the American population overall is in favor by 48% to 44%, if you subtract off the nonreligious people, it becomes 41% to 50%. If you just include the group of Christians, the compassionate religion, it is 39% to 52%. The atheist group is overwhelmingly pro-choice as well. And regarding women’s rights, it is not a coincidence that it is the most religious, theocratic nations (particularly Islamic countries following strict Islamic laws) where women are the most subjugated.
For same-sex marriage, look again at the atheist/agnostic result: 89% for, 7% against. If there was serious debate within the atheist community in the past, it is long gone now. And this, along with the similar numbers for abortion, lead to the following conclusion. Since atheists and agnostics are not bound by any scripture that is explicitly anti-gay or anti-women, they are the first to adjust to the facts and move on. The nonreligious but still spiritual group, with the next highest percentage supporting social progress, moves next. Finally, the religious group as a whole trudges on the slowest and with the most resistance. And when, decades later, they finally adapt to the situation, they pick different interpretations of Bible quotes and try to make it seem as if they were the good guys all along. (Watch out for this. With no unexpected events, in 2050, Bible fanatics will be saying, “Oh look, the Bible supports gay marriage.”)
Is It Even Worth the Time?
While religion still acts like a brick wall to social progress, society can advance only at a snail’s pace and with great sacrifice and cost along the way.
I am not saying that society should outright get rid of religion tomorrow (enacting things suddenly has had dire consequences in the past), but at least something should occur so that religion does not have to act against and hinder social progress whenever it arises. And then we might make some real progress: we might finally be able to save the environment, eradicate poverty, enjoy world peace, and travel to new worlds.
So is the fight against religion worth it? For the sake of humanity, yes.