I believe in tolerance.
Many self-proclaimed atheists I have spoken to (or read) seem to believe that the only way to curb the violence that plagues the world is to eradicate religion, thereby eliminating a major source of intolerance and the violence that comes from it. I believe that these often very intelligent people are perpetuating the very intolerances they are trying to eradicate.
Yes, if everyone was an atheist no one would argue about who was right about religion, but if everyone was a Muslim no one would have those sorts of disagreements, either. Rather than promoting tolerance, they violently attack religion, acting just as intolerant as those they criticize. These intelligent, charismatic people do not use their unique position to advance the tolerance they see religion as lacking. Instead, they act with the same pitfalls which they say plague religion, immersing themselves in the intolerance and hatred that atheism is apparently supposed to eradicate.
I believe that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you understand why you believe it and don’t dismiss others as less intelligent than yourself because they believe differently. I believe that dialogs should open between different belief systems, promoting inclusiveness and tolerance rather than shouting about who’s right or wrong, or dismissing a belief because it is not your own.
I believe that we should focus more on understanding why others believe what they do, rather than why my belief is better than yours. The more we understand about what others believe, the more apt we are to be tolerant of it. Dismissing a belief you do not understand is a characteristic of ignorance, and should be treated as such, rather than merely dismissing a belief because you do not share it.
I believe that tolerance and understanding is the best way to curb violence, not unswerving unity of belief. When we understand one another, when we actually try to see the reasons for believing a view other than our own, we are far more unlikely to attack those who are different. The strength of humanity is in its diversity, in tolerance of a variety of ideas. Intelligent people are Raelians, are Muslim, are atheist, are Wiccan – all believers of vastly different things, with foundations and ideals that deserve recognition. Bringing together the strengths of each (and more) is what is necessary to keep society, and the world, better and stronger.
When dogs are bred with one another to maximize certain traits and create a breed, the offspring are often liable to otherwise rare disabilities (dalmatians, for instance, are prone to deafness). This is because there is not enough variety in their genes, making them more prone to the weaknesses, as well as the strengths, of their breed. Similarly, if society consisted of one belief system, we couldn’t possibly defend ourselves from weaknesses in our beliefs that we may not even perceive. Only through tolerance can society be varied enough to maintain, and expand, its strength.
I believe that atheists and agnostics should lead the way towards a future of tolerance throughout society. They are in a unique position to bring together disparate factions of religion and begin the dialogs that can work toward bringing humanity together. Atheists need to practice what they preach, to be tolerant of those who do believe in a god, in order to keep our society ideologically strong and help curb the violence that still plagues those who do not know enough, or refuse, to be tolerant.