A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to

I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,

*by Used with permission.

I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.

Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.

While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.


13 thoughts on “Coexistence?

  1. Religion will always be based on a “we are right, which mean you are wrong” foundation.

    As this will always be true then the religions will never truly coexist in peace.

    The only hope for peaceful coexistence is for atheism to surpass theism and deism. With no religion as a cause for conflict there will be a small window for people to learn to coexist.


  2. With all due respect fribnit, that is the nature of truth. If someone is right, then necessarily every competing idea is false in so far as it differs. And what also follows is that if you believe you are right, then it’s only reasonable that you’d think anyone who disagrees is wrong.

    I assume you are an atheist, but it is probably safe to say that you believe God does not exist, and that everyone else who disagrees with you on that particular issue is wrong.

    Relativism only creates problems for truth, it never resolves anything.

  3. Sorry, no. Truth is truth. Truth is determined through logical exploration of facts.

    Belief is another matter entirely. Religions are not based on truth. They are based on belief.

    It is the matter of having their BELIEFS challenged that causes the conflicts.

    Come to a “Universal Truth” (there are no gods) and that point of conflict is eliminated.

  4. I’ll single myself out here, and why I understand Jay’s points ~ as well as why I both agree AND disagree.

    I’m the friend with the Coexist button as my profile picture currently ~ and I am also the poster of the (spectacularly disturbing) videos.

    Coexistence is an ideal. In my lifetime, I do not see religion going away. The part of me that respects Karl Marx recognizes the idea of banishing religion and religious beliefs ~ but even with that brand of militant atheism (not to mention the bastardized politics of his philosophy in practice), just as much bloodshed transpires. In that frame, it’s not about religion. It’s about power. Control. And in this Mr. Barron Jr. has a VERY important point that cannot be dismissed. As long as there is an OTHER that can be subjugated, part of the nature of the human animal will work toward that. That said, part of why we (particularly Americans) are entrenched in this mindset is because our very society is adversarial. Always has been, from the inception of the country. Where I disagree with Mr. Barron Jr. is the assertion that because “I’m” an atheist (I am) then anyone who disagrees with me is “wrong” ~ when such is not an accurate statement. Truth is truth…but what IS truth? I don’t mean this statement in any sort of “relativistic” way. Put more simply (and I’ve said this before), truth is unchanging, and there is but a singular reality…*however*…like a diamond is singular, a diamond also has many facets. On this little green planet, there is a singular reality with something like 7 *billion* facets. I don’t believe any one of us knows “the” truth. I don’t believe there is THE truth. There is only truth ~ meaning, my truth is that I reject the notion of a god without duplicatable evidence, and I am a reasonable enough person that if such evidence was presented, I would adjust my belief accordingly. This is not agnosticism – this is just being rational about the situation in front of me…a truth as I see it and perceive/understand it. This does not mean that I tell my mother that she is “wrong” for believing there is a god…or my dad…or any of my friends or family who are adherents to any religious persuasion. That is what they believe ~ whether I agree or not.

    With respect to the videos, there are a few different reasons they disturbed me (other than the barbaric, graphic violence – which, if we’re honest, we don’t have to look terribly far back in our own American history to recognize lynch mobs in practice – and that wasn’t specifically religious, but racially/politically motivated)…the main reasons I was disturbed were (1) Obama’s speech in Jakarta about Indonesian “tolerance” in the face of those atrocities and (2) the peaceful and moderate nature of the Ahmadiyya Muslims who were tortured and killed in those videos. The Ahmadiyya in Indonesia have a peculiar history ( and to really understand how different they are from Orthodox Muslims look here ~

    ~ Jay, I *do* understand what you’re saying about religious extremism. I really do. And it’s the extremism that makes me want to lean toward a hostile anti-religious stance. But here’s where I see the problem with that. As atheists, we have an obligation to live our lives according to our beliefs — ie being good for its own sake, living the golden rule because it’s the right thing to do, etc. Most religious teachings, at their core, DO teach the same things (lest we forget what Mohammed or the Christ or Buddha or Gandhi actually *taught*) ~ just in different cultural times and places. If we allow ourselves to become numb…to dismiss such atrocities as “just religious evil”, then we’re no better than those we judge for intolerance base IN religion.

    Religion isn’t going away, no matter how much I wish it would. And even if it did, the political underbelly would take its place…such is the evil of the “Other” status.

    A harsh spotlight must continue to be shined on human evils and atrocities against our fellow human beans…likewise, since religion isn’t going away, we need to set the example of coexistence.

    “Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

    (apologies in advance for any typos ~ I just woke up and am only on my first cuppajoe…xoxo)

    • Denise,

      I completely agree with you. I never meant to suggest that we give up trying. We have to try to coexist with the religious people who make up the vast majority of the world’s population and to help these people of different religions learn to coexist with each other. As atheists and humanists, we have an obligation to do this. Just because we don’t agree with their way of believing doesn’t mean that we can foster understanding. If anything, we as atheists are in a unique position to do this since we don’t subscribe to any religion or dogma and view all religions equally. This give us distance and objectivity and allows us to focus on our commonality so that we can highlight that commonality with people of all religions. I view it like the classic Scifi plot of an alien race who have moved past the social issues that divided them coming to earth to help show mankind how to do the same.

      I do have to disagree with you on one very important point: we live on a blue planet, not a green one. LOL 🙂

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