I posted in a Christian writing community a while back looking for questions people had about Atheists and atheism, and one person asked one that I hadn’t gotten in any discussion before but I think is a good one: “Why do *some* atheists, like Dawkins, devote so much of their lives to disproving the existence of God? It seems like an awful waste of time and brilliant minds.”
I have several thoughts on why some people are ardently pro-atheism, some based on what motivates me to spend time writing posts like these, and some more conjecture, based on what drives people more broadly.
Moral views. While of course not all aspects of Christianity are bad, nor are all Christians “a problem,” some aspects are harmful, such as LGBTQ+ discrimination that often occurs and the frequent lack of any real sex education. Some people might simply feel more strongly about fixing those problems than others, and because those issues are closely tied to religious views or community practices, attacking the source is a logical choice.
Visibility. Some people’s atheism may be more prominent due to their occupation, rather than that they feel more strongly about it than everyone else. If you focus on the writing-books-and-such part of devoting your time to disproving God: we writers often write about deep, important issues, so it makes sense that some people write a lot about atheistic values. Your plumber may be a hardcore Atheist too, but it doesn’t really relate to their line of work as deeply as it does for writers, so you don’t notice it as much. That’s partly why I’m an outspoken Atheist. I didn’t become a writer so I could insult God in front of the masses; I’ve always been a writer, who wants my writing to be socially impactful in a more abstract sense, and as an Atheist I promote atheistic values.
Social advocacy. This is pretty similar to my first point about addressing moral problems, but more personal. It’s probably not obvious to most Christians, and it’s not the same as Christians literally being martyred in oppressive countries, but Atheists aren’t on completely equal footing. According to the American Atheists’ 2019 secular survey, “Nearly one third (31.4%) of participants mostly or always concealed their nonreligious identity from members of their immediate family.” And according to the Pew Research Center, “A 2019 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans to rate groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 (as cold and negative as possible) to 100 (the warmest, most positive possible rating). U.S. adults gave atheists an average rating of 49, identical to the rating they gave Muslims (49) and colder than the average given to Jews (63), Catholics (60) and evangelical Christians (56).”
Fortunately, I wasn’t one who had to hide my beliefs from my immediate family (although, for a while others in my family had to from the extended family), but I have experienced something like that “less warmly” stat. Although I spend the majority of the year on Mizzou’s campus now, I’m from the Branson area in the Bible Belt, and well… my dad refers to himself as a two-headed alien for a reason. Although it’s not formally enforced, being a Christian (and often holding conservative political values) is just socially expected. People were often genuinely surprised and confused in a “how could you” way when it came out that I didn’t agree with their views. While it’s hardly the end of the world, and I like a good discussion, it did get old constantly having to defend myself against expectations that I HAD to agree with those around me. Or having to fend off people who wanted to make me a “religious project.” It was a shock when I went off to college and discovered that I can just… have a serious discussion and then move on with life without it affecting my relationship with the other person much.
For the rest of my family, when my parents let it be known they were Atheists, my dad ended up having to leave his job at the Christian school where he worked (he was great at it as far as normal job requirements go), and almost all the people who were supposed to be their friends, from random connections to work colleagues, suddenly disappeared. We sort of became estranged from one set of (my) grandparents. I’ve also heard anecdotes at places like the Secular Student Alliance’s conference about teens/young adults being evicted and/or disowned by their parents for deconverting.
All that to say, we Atheists have good reasons to be outspoken. It’s not that we have socially equal beliefs that we could exist quietly with but are trying to arrogantly force on others anyway – it’s that there are issues stemming from religious attitudes, and part of changing that is changing the attitudes driving it. Hence, why some of us are so interested in disproving God.
Following that, personal impact. On an emotional level, people tend to care more about the issues that affect them personally. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the more someone experiences the more harmful side of Christianity, whether themselves or seeing how it affects people they care about, the more they may be invested in fixing the social issues tied to it as opposed to someone who hasn’t really had those issues. That’s part of what drives me. If Christianity was something people did without feeling a need to push it on others or exclude other possibilities, I might just be writing the occasional post just for the sake of expressing myself. But I’ve seen how it negatively affects the people I care about, and so I feel strongly about combating a lot of religious behaviors.
Some degree of human variety. Take any job or activity and look at all the people engaged in it, and some will be more or less passionate than others. Your life experiences will definitely affect your interest, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a degree of personality involved too. Some people just tend to be more focused and/or invested in their beliefs or activities regardless of what specifically the beliefs/activities are, because that’s just how their brain works, and if they happen to be an Atheist writer, that means they’re going to be writing a lot of pro-Atheist work.
Any thoughts, further questions, or personal stories are always welcome in the comments :).