It’s quite obvious that there is a huge amount of real hatred for atheists amongst some groups of people. American Christians in particular seem to be particularly virulent—which is not to say there are no American atheists, there are plenty. But they are definitely are in the minority and are frequently victimised.
I live in a country where that simply does not happen. France takes its secularism seriously, and I sometimes wonder if that is the real reason for the resentment so often shown by Anglo-Saxons against France and the French. But that is for another day. Here, nobody cares if you’re an atheist. In fact it’s the default position. People, generally, at least educated ones, will assume that you’re an atheist, or at least a secularist, without asking. France actively excludes religion from all State functions, including schools, and has even curbed the most offensive of public religious displays.
Witch-burning is out of fashion in the West these days. Fortunately. But the religious intolerance that caused it is still with us, and it’s getting more strident. And in other parts of the world, religion is responsible for shameful acts of mutilation and murder on a daily basis. The Internet has given voice to some whose opinions, frankly, should never have a public platform, and ‘multiculturalism’ that shameful abrogation of the moral values of our secular society, makes it increasingly difficult for anyone to express legitimate criticism of some of the nasty ideas put forward by people of religion under the disguise of ‘faith’.
I am lucky to have been brought into a world where secularisation was ascendant. In every way, the light of science seemed to have the darkness of superstition in retreat. Even those Christians I knew, did not suggest that the Bible was literally true, or the exact transcription of the words of a supernatural deity. For them, religion was a cultural practice and spiritual guide, or so it appeared. In any case the free and educated society that my generation argued and worked so hard for, surely would, in the end, render the very idea of formal religion obsolete.
I am proud to be a European. Our culture has many faults, yet at the same time it has given the world so much. Science and democracy, equality under law and social inclusion simply would not exist without it. And across culture, art, science, engineering and technology, our culture remains a brilliant star, without which light, we would still be in the Dark Ages. I am very proud and lucky to be a part of that.
Despite this, I believed, for many years, that other cultures were equal.
But I was wrong. Culture is not a level playing field. The very qualities that define Western culture represent a system of morality, which allow us to judge other cultures. And we definitely should judge them.