Atheism acting like religion

21 11 2008

I think it’s fair to say that atheists generally have a lot of criticism of religion. I know I do. But, unfortunately, many of the most steadfast critics of religion are also the closest among the atheists to the religious. Many of them have the same “I won’t deal with you because of your religion,” or “you’re stupid because of your religion” attitude that we find so repulsive in the religious.

I have news for these atheists: by holding this attitude, you are no better than the religious. Your being right has nothing to do with it. You’re still displaying the same self righteous, arrogant, obnoxious attitudes. You’re still acting like a condescending bigot.

Intelligent people can disagree, can’t they? Why is it so hard for you to agree to disagree over religion? In my experience, the response is usually “but religion is sloppy thinking.” So what? No one is free from sloppy thinking. Everyone is sloppy in their thinking sometimes, perhaps often. Very intelligent people have sacred cows. Some of the most brilliant people in our history were religious. Are you better than them because you’re not?

How do you expect to convince people to give up their religion with this sort of thing? Most people’s religion stems much more from their feelings about it than from a rational analysis. Most people going to church aren’t worried about making it completely logically consistent. They go to church, in large part, for the community. They want the feeling of being around others who appreciate and care about them.

This sort of insulting, rude behavior helps ensure that atheism remains limited to a small group, because it makes the image of atheism into exactly the opposite of a warm, welcoming community. I doubt that is your goal, so why do you persist? Perhaps because you are not really so rational about this at all? Or are you incapable of having a reasonable, reasoned dialogue with those who disagree with you?

Making fun of religion is one thing. Making fun of the religious is another. The first is not only OK, but good. Humor is one of the best ways to convince people, or at the very least force them to moderate. The second is not OK. It’s rude, it’s counterproductive, and often a very nasty tactic indeed. What do you think of people who insult atheists? Why are you different?

Apart from sloppy thinking, what do you have against most religious people? Fundamentalists are only a small portion of the religious. Do you take issue with liberal Christians, who are friendly to atheists and agree with us on things like separation of church and state? Most of them aren’t trying to convert you, they really do feel good will toward you. There’s a reason that they believe in a very moderate religion, after all. Liberal Christians really do tend to do more work to help others. Why is that? And why do you think you’re better, anyway?