Challenge: The alleged arrogance of atheists

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Challenge: The alleged arrogance of atheists

Okay, this should be a good one!

For details/rules, see The Unapologetics Challenge.

Mano Singham, who writes an excellent science/atheism blog, has a new blog post on Machines Like Us, titled The alleged arrogance of atheists. The user 'kaath' is back and whining up a storm, as usual. I've already posted one comment. Test your mettle! (Or just leave a comment to Mano. I'll count that as also fulfilling the challenge for this one.)

(Note for linkage purists: Visit this copy of the same post on his own website if you'd like to give Mano some extra traffic.)

IMPORTANT: Remember to comment on the original blog post. Comments to this RRS post can be considered the 'peanut gallery', but don't count as fulfilling the challenge.


The alleged arrogance of atheists

My post on introducing the label 'Unapologetic Atheist' started a lively debate in the comments section. In the course of it, people have once again raised the charge that unapologetic atheists (also known as 'new atheists') are rude and arrogant and uncivil and needlessly hostile towards religious people.

By Mano Singham

(The cartoon strip Jesus and Mo comments on this charge of 'atheist bile'.)

The catch is that we are never told exactly what statements fall under these categories. So to try and clarify things, I will list the statements that I commonly make and I would be curious to know which ones religious people find objectionable and why. So here goes:

  1. There is no more credible evidence to believe in god, heaven, hell, and the afterlife than there is for fairies, Santa Claus, wizards, Elohim, Satan, Xenu, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and unicorns.
  2. Science and religion are incompatible worldviews.
  3. The world would be better off without any religion or beliefs in the supernatural.

Everything else I or any other new/unapologetic atheists write follow from these premises and are arguments designed to support and advance them. (Jerry Coyne has a nice summary of the atheists position.) So are the above statements rude, arrogant, hostile, uncivil, etc.?

To help us make a judgment, let us formulate what the opposite pole of those statements might look like:

  1. There is more credible evidence to believe in god, heaven, hell, and the afterlife than there is for fairies, Santa Claus, wizards, Elohim, Xenu, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and unicorns.
  2. Science and religion are compatible worldviews.
  3. The world would be worse off without any religion or beliefs in the supernatural.

If any statement in the first set is rude, then by symmetry one should concede that so is the corresponding opposite statement. I think that I am safe in saying that most people would say that the second set of statements are completely inoffensive. In fact such statements are routinely made by religious apologists and are praised as 'moderate'. And yet you never find atheists saying that religious people are being arrogant and rude because they say that god exists and atheists are wrong. It is this difference that is telling.

So if what we atheists say is rude and hostile, why doesn't it hold true for the opposite? The situation is even worse than a mere lack of symmetry. Religious people don't feel that there is anything wrong in even saying that nonbelievers are going to hell and making absurd demands in the guise of seeking accommodation. In fact, that is their standard shtick, as my conversations with the Jesus people showed. (See here, here, and here.)

I think I know what really offends religious people about what new/unapologetic atheists say and why. What they want us to say is that belief in some form of traditional religion is somehow respectable and rational to believe in. What they desperately want to avoid is having their beliefs lumped in with all the other evidence-free superstitions, like astrology or witchcraft or Scientology or Xenu or Elohim or Rael or unicorns or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. When we say that there is no credible evidence for any of these things and hence they must be treated equally, they get upset. They desperately want to distinguish themselves from what they consider to be fringe beliefs but they cannot find any meaningful criteria by which to do so. So they want us to stop reminding them of the embarrassing fact that they are no different.

If you listen to the many debates that have been held on whether god exists what you essentially hear from the religious side is the plaintive cry "Please, please don't say that our beliefs are irrational. Please, please say that it is reasonable for us to believe in Jehovah/Yahweh/Melvin/Jesus/Harvey/Allah/Krishna/…(circle the name of your preferred god or insert your write-in candidate) and we will join you in denouncing things like astrology, witchcraft and the like."

But of course atheists will not say that because to do so is to give up atheism and we are not going to do so without evidence.

Atheists are confident that there is no god or other form of supernatural agency. Having believers simply say we are wrong or even going to hell does not offend us because they never provide any evidence in support so why should we care? But religious people know that they have no evidence to support their belief and are embarrassed by the thought that their beliefs are irrational and unscientific, and haunted by the fear that they are wrong. Rather than shutting their own ears to avoid hearing things they dislike, they want us to shut our mouths.

Maybe I am wrong in my analysis of why believers make the charge that new/unapologetic atheists are arrogant. So here is my request to those who believe it is true: Tell me exactly what statements that the new/unapologetic atheists make that are arrogant/rude/uncivil and why.

POST SCRIPT: Bertrand Russell on atheism and its implications

 

 

This clip reminds us that the 'new' atheism is pretty old.


IMPORTANT: Remember to comment on the original blog post. Comments to this RRS post can be considered the 'peanut gallery', but don't count as fulfilling the challenge.

 

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RatDog
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Ok, I've responded to this

Ok, I've responded to this one to now.  I wrote:

"Dear Kaath
I've been thinking a lot about the world I live in, and I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that if you truly believe something you will act on the assumption that your belief is true.  If you believe a car is coming at you then you will get out of the way.  If you believe that an all mighty God wants you to not give your child medicine then you may very well let your child die rather then bring them to a hospital.  Belief affects actions, and that makes what people believe very important to everyone and not just themselves. 

Now consider that I believe:

   1. There is no more credible evidence to believe in god, heaven, hell, and the    afterlife than there is for fairies, Santa Claus, wizards, Elohim, Satan, Xenu, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and unicorns.
   2. Science and religion are incompatible worldviews.
   3. The world would be better off without any religion or beliefs in the supernatural.

Given these beliefs it is only natural that I should try to convince people that there is not god.  In fact given these beliefs I would be acting immorally to not try and convince people that their god (whatever their god happens to be) is a lie.  You can call this arrogant if you like, but it is no more arrogant then all the religious people who do the same."
 


butterbattle
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My response."When you

My response.

"When you attempt to discuss a subject rationally and are met with sarcasm, you can assume either the poster is unaware of the impact of his words or is quite aware and means to give offense. In other words, he's either ignorant of the meaning of his words, or he's rude."

Sarcasm or satire, like any other form of argumentation, is usually employed to defend or criticize beliefs and practices, not to offend people. In debates, non-theists use satire to ridicule the beliefs of religious theists. Furthermore, clearly, people that write good satire are not "unaware of the impact of [their] words." It could even be debated that people who can apply satire correctly have a better grasp of the relevant issues than people who can't because satire requires a thorough understanding of the opponent's beliefs as well as your own.

I think the real issue here is that many religious people are so sensitive that they will eventually regard almost any criticism of their beliefs as "rude" or "militant" or "antagonistic." I know, for a fact, that my very existence as an atheist offends some people. Unlike skeptics that constantly apply a certain level of doubt, religious people become more concerned with protecting their beliefs than finding the truth. Thus, criticism in philosophy and science is encouraged while criticism in religion is usually unacceptable.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


Wonderist
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butterbattle wrote:I think

butterbattle wrote:

I think the real issue here is that many religious people are so sensitive that they will eventually regard almost any criticism of their beliefs as "rude" or "militant" or "antagonistic." I know, for a fact, that my very existence as an atheist offends some people.

This is really the core of the issue, IMO. One of these days, I'd like to support a billboard/bus ad campaign where the sign simply has a nice-looking picture of a smiling person, and the simple text: "I am an atheist." I can just imagine all the outraged calls and comments from theists saying, "That sign is so offensive to me! They should take it down."

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Atheistextremist
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Such billboards were banned in Australia

 

The Australian Atheist Foundation wanted to take out billboards saying: "Relax, there's no god" or words to that effect and they were refused. The government did not step in, showing clear discrimination. The delusion runs deep.

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/26/2430714.htm

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


Wonderist
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Okay, kaath is back and has

Okay, kaath is back and has replied to various commenters. Remember to comment over there. Comments here are just the 'peanut gallery'. I've gotta head to bed for now.

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Rich Woods
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Of course they consider us

Of course they consider us arrogant.... We're right, and their wrong.

 

If I was them I'd hate us too...


Jeffrick
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Arrogance?!!!

 

 

 

                  I am not arrogant;    I am right!      It saves a lot of argument.

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VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

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NoMoreCrazyPeople
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natural wrote: This is

natural wrote:

 

This is really the core of the issue, IMO. One of these days, I'd like to support a billboard/bus ad campaign where the sign simply has a nice-looking picture of a smiling person, and the simple text: "I am an atheist." I can just imagine all the outraged calls and comments from theists saying, "That sign is so offensive to me! They should take it down."

Great idea!