Many times I have been admonished by my family and friends about “Going down the wrong path” or "becoming an apostate". Often, the conversation begins in the form of a question, “Why do you reject Jesus?” and “Why are you choosing the path that is going to lead you to hell?” The tone of the questioning is typically condescending. It is coming from an individual who assumes they have most of the correct answers about reality, and that I, a fallen ingrate, needs their assistance in understanding things correctly. After all, they only want to eschew me out of my faulty thinking and my path towards everlasting torment.
I sometimes wish to say back, “It seems so easy for you to just assume that you are right about all this. Have you noticed how I refrain from employing this same tactic? I do not accept any assumption I make with pure ease. I hold assumptions loosely…tentatively, and I do not proceed to go further and create dogma out of them. I patiently listen to all the Christian CD’s that you have made me. I read every Christian book that you get me for Christmas and I read your unending bible passage texts and the constant stream of email devotionals that you send me. Yet, you can barely tolerate 30 seconds of a debate between Dan Barker and Dinesh D'Souza. If this were a game of fair-mindedness with regards to the other person’s ideological position, there seems to be great deal of imbalance going on.”
Many Christians that I know are unwilling to expand their thinking to include thoughts that are secular in nature (i.e. thinking about events as if there was no god). So, while they want you to read through all of their homemade tracts and listen to their sermons, they will not bring their mind to your side of the fence. The reason, I suppose? They are afraid of doing so. Many Christians think that this act alone—this simple shift in perspective— is moving into satanic territory. This is one reason why Christian leaders often warn their devotees to abstain from reading books by atheists. They truly believe that demonic powers have invested such atheist minds so that they can beguile and corrupt other minds, ultimately bringing their readers to the lordship of Satan.
Unlike the Christian, the atheist/skeptic has no reason to refrain from considering the other person’s perspective (in this case, the Christian perspective). There is no atheist creed with warnings of “Loosing one’s beliefs may result in atheist hell” or “You can be blinded by Christians”. There are no pejorative labels equivalent to “backslider”, “apostate” or “infidel” to slap on former atheists who have changed their minds and have become religious.
While atheists might have logical problems with religious view-points, they won’t be tempted to disown their friends and family members simply for having a “change of mind” (To an atheist, a change of mind carries no spiritual/moral implications but it does for a Christian). To the atheist, actions carry far more weight in the grand scheme of things. For Christians though, a change of mind…a change of thinking or “heart”— is ultimately what determines your place in the afterlife. This is why the traditional Christian view allows absurd things to happen…like Ted Bundy getting to go to heaven, and Einstein, to hell. (i.e. one of these people changed their mind about Jesus and made a decision to believe in him while they were alive.)
The skeptical position says, “Go ahead; check out all the other world-views! There is nothing inherently diabolical about doing this. In fact, doing so expands your mental horizon so that you can be better informed about different view-points and why certain groups hold them. Furthermore, learning about other views is a good way to avoid the temptation of misrepresenting them.”
My point is that the atheist view is less biased. That is, the atheist is on a less biased thinking platform. If you think I’m wrong, ask yourself, are atheists ever advised not to read Christian literature? Are atheists warned to NOT read the Bible, NOT learn about creationist ideas and to NOT read apologetic books written by Christians? It seems to me, that some of the most informed people about creationism are atheists. These individuals don’t shy away from their “opponent's” position, but instead, seek to learn all about it and then make an assessment about whether it is more or less reasonable than the current position they hold.
Unlike the religious view where the mind has a very deep emotional attachment to a predetermined set of infallible, immutable beliefs, the skeptical view attempts to make commitments only to reason, reality, logic, truth and evidence. If a piece of evidence appears to disrupt a former idea, that idea can be changed. All ideas are subject to change based on new information.