Take Atheism Seriously

A commenter on one of my old posts made an intriguing comment after asking me why I chose to attend church as an atheist. Naturally, some of the comments were nonsensical and/or highly questionable, but I choose to reflect on this positively by using this as a learning experience on why we have to build better cultures and communities for atheists.

I could tell you had been Christian before just by reading this post… I hope you didnt take offense to my questions nor feel badgered by them. I also hope that nothing painful, trauumatic, or negative occurred that caused you to move away from God. I hate to hear of people who had to endure such things.

How many times must I repeat this? Atheists are not hurt, depressed, or victimized. They were not abused or traumatized. The overwhelming majority of them live incredibly meaningful lives full of love and hope. The comment is as insulting as saying to a gay person, “I hope that your dad didn’t rape you when you were little.” No. No. No.

Has it ever occurred to people that atheists are atheists not because somebody emotionally hurt them, but rather because of independent, critical thinking? Has it ever occurred to people that the happiest and most socially healthy countries in the world all have very high rates of atheism? No, this doesn’t mean that secularism causes social well-being, but it does refute the insane idea that atheism is somehow equivalent to psychological deficiency.

There is nothing that would convince me that I am wrong. That probably discourages you but I have to be honest. I am not open to Islam or Hinduism because I believe whole heartedly that Jesus is the way, truth, and life and no one can come to the Father but through Him. I am familiar with Islam and recognize parallels as well as differences. I am not open to agnosticism for me personally…

I’m sure there are many readers “facepalming” at this but I don’t find this particularly surprising or annoying. I do appreciate the honesty, but must point out the hypocrisy of calling me “biased” in a previous comment and implying that I was closed-minded (since I committed the epistemological “sin” of having, of all things, “an analytical, factual, scientific point of view”). Indeed, there is absolutely no amount of evidence or argument that would convince this person, but my mission here is for other more open-minded (secular and religious) people to really consider if such portrayals of atheism and (lack of) justifications for faith-based Christianity are valid.

…but I do believe that atheism doesnt truly exist. I think deep down everyone believes in a higher power.

Now this is what really aggravated me. This person not only claims to know that God exists (which is impossible to know), not only to know this God’s instructions and nature, not only to know how to communicate with this God, but also (and perhaps just as incredibly) to be able to mind-read what atheists think “deep down inside”.

I’m not sure if she is referring to the infinitely expanding tautology that is nearly ubiquitous in psychoanalysis, that is, the repetitive assertion that one’s current condition is a result of event X in the past, and any attempt to argue otherwise is merely “repression” of an unconscious entity. But perhaps more cynically, the lady who authored the comment above is charging that atheists deny a conscious belief in God, in which case the unavoidable implication is that all atheists are a bunch of intellectually dishonest fools.

Admittedly, there is little we can do to persuade her out of either position, but much we can do to build a better respect for atheists (and atheism) around the world. This is a call to action. When people cannot even fathom that others truly have a different opinion or philosophical stance, when people dismiss your ideas by simply saying that “you don’t really believe in it,” the very idea of the rigorous pursuit of truth is threatened, since not all meaningful stances/opinions/propositions are taken seriously.

This is why I am so compelled to change this anti-atheist Christian culture that trusts atheists as much as rapists. This is why I really want to change the norm that whenever an atheist confronts religion, it is automatically assumed that maybe he/she is either A) emotionally hurt, B) irrationally angry, or C) more closed-minded than theists. Has it ever occurred to people that the problem may not be with atheism, but with religion?

If we are going to build a more loving, more peaceful, and more reality-based humanistic society, we’re going to have to change these attitudes. Yes, some will not change. But we’ve already made a lot of progress, and millions (if not billions) around the world are helping us create a critical mass of respectful people (from all backgrounds) to forge a culture that takes atheism seriously.


Posted on January 7, 2012, in Humanism, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wow you wrote a whole post on my comment. Should I feel honored or offended? I choose to feel honored. 🙂

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