Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 10 December 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

A different approach to religious debate

Jacob was awarded $200 by FFRF for his essay.

To understand why my father is religious despite having a master’s degree in engineering and why it was so easy for me to lose my religion at age 16 — with virtually no exposure to atheist sentiment and scientific argument — I’ve had to go beyond the simple explanations usually offered in discussions among atheists.

I discuss religion in terms of need. I don’t debate the existence of god or the source of morals or many other things, although I could. I don’t debate those things with religious people, but I think about them or discuss them with nonbelieving friends. I don’t confront people about broad aspects of religion, although I’ll confront vigorously any specific applications they make that I disagree with: gay rights, reproductive rights, tax policy, etc.

Instead, I ask myself: Why do they need religion?

I look at my dad’s religious conversion as a process driven by trauma that he didn’t know how to cope with any other way. Trauma from family abuse (far too common), trauma from war (ditto), insecurity as a new husband, new father, new graduate and newly deployed soldier. Religion was his fallback option for addressing those issues.

Religious arguments are camouflage, and atheists’ counter-arguments never seem to get to the source. They’re largely wasted energy. You can’t argue needs into disappearing. What you can do is skip the argument and attack the needs head-on.

I’m not a Christian because I don’t need to be. I’ve found many other things that address my needs far more specifically and effectively. I don’t mean to give people the sense that my atheism isn’t logically supported in my mind. I’ve had the opportunity to be in college, study science, major in mathematics and economics, and I definitely could contest religion on those grounds.

But given my experience of exiting religion, I prefer not to. I focus not on argument but on problem solving. I’m vocal about my lack of belief, and about what has taken its place in my life.

Jacob Kovacs, 23, Olympia, Wash., attended South Puget Sound Community College for two years and is transferring to Evergreen State College. His goal is to complete a B.S. in applied computing and mathematical sciences (mathematical economics track). “I’m interested in bringing my quantitative, analytical perspective to the cause of social justice, particularly civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. My hobbies are blogging and working out.”

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