I have heard more than a few times the question asked of why atheists care about other peoples’ religion.
I find the question to be a bit flawed, because not all atheists do care. Still other atheists don’t care about how some people practice their religion, but are bothered by others. Ultimately, the question needs to be something more along the lines of, “What makes some atheists care about others peoples’ religion?”
I can’t speak for all atheists, and I don’t talk to a lot of atheists about things like this, but I can venture a guess as to some of the reasons.
For one thing, some places are literally saturated with religion. If you are confronted with religion on a daily basis and you just want to be left alone, there is certainly a chance for some hostility to build up. This shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp, since religious people seem to get so offended just by billboards proclaiming that atheists exist.
Imagine a billboard mocking religion and saying atheists were better on every corner, with atheist meeting centers on every block, and your doorbell ringing at 8am with atheists wanting to share their disbelief in God with you. Honestly, if a religious person was experiencing this, I would understand being upset at atheists.
While those cultural annoyances are one thing, the real hot-button issue for me is when people drag their religion into politics and lobbying. Again, Christians should be able to relate. In fact, many have taken to holding a very hostile stance towards sharia law, even though the only threat of a fundamentalist takeover of the government is coming from the very same right-wing conservatives who are paranoid of Muslims infusing Islam into American law.
Both of these are linked by the fact that someone else’s religion is imposing on non-followers. I believe that people deserve not only the freedom to practice any religion they wish, but the freedom from all religions and their followers. In a culture with so many religions, I am shocked that this is not already a universally accepted right.
In fact, it’s almost enough to make me believe that religions in America have largely decided to collude. More than once, I have seen Jews sue over Christmas displays, and the final “solution” was not to get rid of any Christian iconography, but to add a menorah. Religions don’t care about having everyone fairly represented, they just want to make sure they themselves are represented.
And the approximately 1/7 people who are not religious, what are we to do? I keep hearing atheism is a religion, so where’s our tax-free political lobby?
So if it seems strange that atheists care about what religious people are doing, maybe it’s because there seems to be a concerted effort to marginalize those without a religion.