An atheist/naturalist is reviled because he is the one person willing to state the obvious to those who cannot or will not admit to it. Let’s face facts. The believers, be they Jews, Christians, or Gardnerian Wiccans, in spite of the myriad of rationalizations, justifications, and mind games, continue to replace evidence and reason with ‘faith’. No hard evidence at all. All the atheist does is point out what is readily apparent, and he does so without any mental gymnastics.
Religions remind me of used-car-type salesmen hawking a product that you really don’t need. The first thing they must do is create that need in the mind of the potential customer. There are any number of ways to accomplish this. The best way is through eliciting fear or inducing hope. If you can convince your customer that living without this particular product could lead to either great suffering or, conversely, great satisfaction, then the transaction is all but closed at that point. Fear and hope are exactly the same phenomena, both being negative and generally useless emotions.
Outs[poken as I may be, I cannot favor outlawing religious belief or religions. Far from it! There are two reasons for this. First, the truth is that religion as a social function does, at least, espouse morals and ethics that people might not hear about in other venues. One seldom finds such inspiration in movie theatres or on television. Kierkegaard was correct when he bemoaned the state of his generation that “sought inspiration in the theatres, and entertainment in the churches.” For many, church is going to be the only place, unfortunately, that will learn about ‘love thy neighbor’. They may also be listening to a lot of dangerous ideas as well, but for the most part, this atheist can live with things as they are as long as the parishioner takes his ‘love thy neighbor’ seriously enough to forgive my atheism and not burn me at the stake.
The second reason I would not abolish religion is because I still cherish freedoms and liberties. If we begin to shut down ideas, no matter how disagreeable they may seem, we have already forfeited those freedoms away. In short, the believer is entitled to his or her delusions, the atheist is also welcome to reject it, and reject it loudly if he so wishes. The price of freedom is that we will have to endure the smarmy salesman and have to weed through his sales pitch to discern if, in fact, we actually require this product or not or, if we choose, to evaluate that product based on its merits and probable effectiveness. I wonder if people give as much time to scrutinizing their religious beliefs as they do when buying a used car.
There is always someone out there who is going to hustle you when you are most vulnerable to his advertising. Remain skeptical. These hucksters are very slick, and you can be sure, the more they talk, the less they really have to sell you. They can market ‘ice to Eskimos’ if they wish, but I’m pretty sure only an Eskimo in the middle of a desert would really need it. I don't imagine Eskimos to be that gullible. So why are we?
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense.” (Carl Sagan, 1934 - 1996)