President Trump has attempted to ban Muslims from several foreign nations, including Syrian refugees, from entering the United States. The federal court has temporarily issued a stay against Trump’s Executive Order. Not surprisingly, religious leaders and believers are mixed on whether or not the United States should welcome Syrian refugees and Muslims in general. There are Christian leaders and believers who quote the Bible both for and against allowing Muslim refugees into America. Jewish leaders are similarly conflicted especially because Jews and Muslims have been fighting over the divine deed to a worthless patch of desert, and yet American Jews are also sympathetic because of their history from the last century of being the refugees after the Second World War.
I’m sure there are atheists on both sides of this debate as well. I can’t speak for the entire atheist community because atheism isn’t a shared belief system with a shared holy book or shared doctrine. It is merely the lack of belief in an idea that has absolutely no evidence and seems to fly directly in the face of logic and reason.
However, with that in mind, many godless heathens have found themselves sharing certain common values like a love of science, logic, and reason. Many atheists do seem to share the values of secular humanism and base our morality around the evolutionary adaptation of human empathy and compassion.
Religious leaders, politicians, and believers can quote competing Bible verses all day long but it doesn’t really mean anything to me. As an atheist who sees humanity as one species of animal rather than various tribes all claiming to have the “One True God” on their side, I see no fundamental difference between Muslim refugees or any other group of refugees. Thomas Paine once said that the world was his country and his religion was to do good.
One concern is that some of these Muslim refugees might be secret terrorists. After all, ISIS is made up entirely of Muslim fundamentalists, so allowing a bunch of Muslims into the country could be dangerous. This is certainly a possibility, but it seems unlikely that people fleeing ISIS would work with ISIS to attack America in this way. Sure they might be able to sneak someone in, but there are easier ways for them to do that than by going through the current lengthy waiting period and thorough background checks. Besides, as an atheist, I am more concerned about Christian extremists already in this country, than I am about an extremist Muslim member of ISIS sneaking into this country with refugees of people who have really good reasons to hate ISIS.
If I wear an atheist shirt or a shirt critical of religion down the street in many places in America, there is a very real chance that a fundamentalist Christian could take offense to it and physically assault me. We live in a country where billboards that simply state that if you “don’t believe in God, you are not alone,” often get vandalized by extremist Christian believers. There are lots of angry, armed Christians out there who hate atheists and have no problem threatening us and discriminating against us. But I wouldn’t suggest deporting them. To put it simply, the godless in America have more reason to worry about being attacked by a crazed fundamentalist Christian than we do being attacked by a fundamentalist Muslim. Violent religious extremists are going to do what violent religious extremists are going to do regardless of what holy book they worship.
There is one thing I do know, and that is that in the marketplace of ideas, I am confident that none of the Abrahamic religious can withstand the scrutiny of science and reason and that none of them have a single shred of valid evidence supporting their ridiculous beliefs. So if Muslim refugees want to come to America and take part in the marketplace of ideas, I welcome them. Come on in but be prepared to have your beliefs and ideas criticized. I’m an equal opportunity blasphemer.
The way I see it, human beings are fleeing oppression and we have a secular moral obligation to help. America is a nation of immigrants — many of which came here fleeing oppression. We should be able to empathize with these Syrian refugees. That empathy should compel us to act compassionately and to do what we can to help them. Those religious believers and leaders who oppose allowing Syrian Muslims into this country often talk tough, but they seem to have an overly irrational fear. For people who are convinced that God is watching out for them, they seem awfully worried that he won’t protect them. I have to really wonder about the strength of their faith. Do they really believe “God is on their side?”
As an atheist, I obviously don’t believe in any gods; I believe we have to protect each other. If human beings are fleeing oppression and America can help, then we should help. I think that is the godless thing to do.
Check out some of my interviews with atheist and religious authors.