An Atheist with whom We Might Talk
Mr. Epstein: Well, Godless communism was a canard that was exploited, I mean, to divide Americans and it’s carried over again, because one of the things that I’ve seen is that with this sort of resurgence of popular expressions of atheism, there’s this conflict that has been stirred up between let’s say progressive humanists and atheists and progressive people of other faiths,
Christianity, Judaism, et cetera. Right, so that some atheist authors have done a lot to sort of say, you know, ‘If you are a progressive believer in God —’
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Mr. Epstein: ‘— you’re the enemy.’ But most nonreligious people are not anti-religious and this is a key. Most nonreligious people are not anti-religious. All we ask is that we be treated just like anyone else and that our views be taken just as seriously in society and in culture as anyone else
and in politics as well in that it’s when we feel that this is not the case, that we’re still living, in terms of the treatment of atheists in this country, the way that we were living back in the times of McCarthyism and, you know, McCarthy parading around and insulting Godless communists as a way of sort of rallying support to his cause. It’s that point at which we say, you know, many
of us are angry.
However, I want to keep the focus, though, on the positive fact that there are most likely around a billion nonreligious people in the world, depending on how you count, between 30 and 40 or 50 million nonreligious people in this country. And the statistic is probably one in five young people in America, 18- to 25-year-olds, one in five of them in America is nonreligious. And what we’re saying is that we want to build the best possible world for all human beings and that the only thing that can make this world a better place is human effort, human caring, compassion, creativity, and human reason.
People don’t realize that there’s an organization like the Secular Student Alliance, which puts together groups of humanist and secular and atheist and agnostic students around the country and sponsors and supports them in doing community service, you know, in doing all kinds of wonderful activities. And so
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Mr. Epstein: — these are some of the voices that I think we need to hear from now. You know, religion doesn’t poison everything, and not everyone who believes in God is some kind of deluded fool.