Complaints About Criticizing Religion Usually Means Stay Silent

image of a Man and woman arguing

On Wednesday, American Secular Census (ASC) posted an article that focused on secular women. The report didn’t have any new information for me since I am a geezer in the movement but I wanted to address something that has bothered me ever since I identified myself as an atheist and secular humanist. There seems to be a notion that criticizing religion is always wrong and that we stunt the growth of freethought by doing it. I feel this is a false notion and is a wrong point to focus on when trying to build a secular community.

Women seem to want groups that do more than criticize religion. They are attracted to positive messages and education. They’d like their groups to share their values and take positions that reflect those values. They’d like their interactions to be positive; they seem quite willing to abandon groups where they have had to deal with problem behavior, including unwanted advances. They could sometimes use some help with childcare. And while they are atheists (the most common identifier among both men and women), they are more likely than men to attend church or use a religious identity — so groups where there is hostility or ridicule about religious participation are probably not going to feel welcoming to women.

Women’s experiences in secular groups can be uniquely divergent from men’s

I agree with most of the conclusion. We need to deal with problem behavior, help with childcare for events, and include more women in leadership and programing decisions. However I disagree with any idea that we need to reduce or eliminate criticism of religion even if women don’t like it.

We need to do more than criticize religion but in my many years of experience with freethought groups it almost always means not only to tone down the criticism but that we have to be silent toward religion. Some of the specific responses to the survey point to the “stay silent” idea.

I reject that idea.

I’ve had these kind of discussions with women and men over the years whose only experience with religion was the liberal protestant sects that are more prevalent in my area. They refused to acknowledge how bad religion is for the world, in general, as they cherry picked the good stuff. Most of these people falsely believe ANY criticism of religion is being hostile to religion.

It would interesting to see where the women surveyed, who didn’t like criticizing religion, lived in the country. My guess would be in urban areas with strong liberal churches.

The men who lead Islam, Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity are no friends of women. They pick and choose parts of their holy books to put down and control women and they need to be criticized for that at every opportunity. I don’t care how many homeless they help, if they put women down or hurt them through their religious beliefs then they need to be called on it.

Yes secular men like to criticize religion. I like to debate people and ideas including religion. I do it for entertainment and it exercises my brain. I’m able to evaluate my views and fine tune them for my better understanding. It doesn’t happen often but I have changed views on an issue after a good debate.

There is no reason why all ideas including religion shouldn’t be open to criticism.

I understand why some people don’t like it. As I said, I don’t want that to be the only thing secular groups do, but I don’t want to see the opposite reaction where criticism of religion isn’t allowed.

If you think about it, we can’t educate “the public about secularism, its principles, its contributions, and its heroes” without criticizing religion. Secularism isn’t just liberal religion – it includes atheists and agnostics. You have to point how secularism is different than religion or there is no reason to have secularists.

So let’s do more to increase diversity but not at the expense the principles that set us apart from religion.