Six Reasons Why Atheists Dislike Interfaith

After talking to some atheists and sensing part of the general sentiment, I want to summarize the common objections to the “interfaith” model that I’ve heard in the secular community. So this is material up for discussion. How would you respond to objections like the ones below? Which points are legitimate, and which ones are not?

1) The word “interfaith” has “faith” in it.

A big deal-breaker for a lot of atheists. You see, atheists aren’t people of faith. The very idea of faith, the idea that you should believe nonsense with no evidence at all, is repulsive. So when you make a movement or organization named for its inter-faith-ness, you alert our faith-dar and sirens start going off, meaning we might be excluded. It’s like trying to make a Pan-Asian club and calling it the Korean Society.

2) Interfaith people don’t engage with the fundamental issues in religion nearly enough.

You go to one of those interfaith dialogue meetings and you expect to have an intense and enlightening discussion about religious/secular issues. Instead, you wind up doing ice-breaker exercises making you draw silly depictions of your non-existent religious identity, and you get to see other people draw and talk about their angels and crosses and miraculous superstitions. And you smile to pretend you’re having fun. And you’re desperate to talk about proper epistemology and rational ways of arriving at conclusions, but you don’t get to, and you just want to shoot yourself.

3) Interfaith people aren’t angry enough.

You see, atheists aren’t just angry at fundamentalists and crazy religious fanatics. They’re angry at the very idea of faith, of a supernatural being, of believing in things without any good reasons at all. They’re angry at injustice and ignorance. Angry at the religious texts themselves for their absurdities and immoralities. Angry at liberal religion for enabling the idea that “faith is good.” Angry at people who think Jesus was actually a good person. Angry at the idea that we should “respect” religion. Angry at misogyny rooted in institutions and religious texts. Angry at homophobia caused directly by religious texts. Angry that evolution is still up for debate. Angry at faith’s willful suspension of our critical faculties to make us more gullible and unscientific. Angry at total nonsense like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. Angry that after all this history, people still think faith is a good idea…

Where is the intense, uncontrollable outrage? Where is the activist spirit to fight for a secular world?

4) Interfaith serves people who are already moderate and liberal.

If people aren’t going to change their minds about faith, if they’re going to continue to enable its legitimacy, then the next best option is to minimize the harmful effects of religion. Fortunately, the interfaith crowd usually does not need help in this regard. The kind of people who volunteer for interfaith probably are tolerant and loving in the first place. However, I bet that seeing people working together at a food pantry probably won’t convince that sexist to stop taking 1 Corinthians seriously.

5) “Interfaith” is just a repackaged form of humanism (designed to legitimize faith).

So the word “faith” is slapped onto a package of ideals striving for the betterment of humankind (for all faiths, backgrounds, ethnicities, etc). Isn’t there a word for this already, and isn’t it called “humanism”? Haven’t we been practicing humanism for thousands of years? Why does interfaith want to do the same thing we do (and strive for the same goals that we strive for) but want to separate itself with the label “interfaith” instead?

6) People of different religions finally find the common sense to not hate each other and to work together? And atheists are supposed to be impressed?

For a very long time, criticism of religion wasn’t just discouraged, it was dangerous. You couldn’t be an atheist (or an open Protestant under Catholic rule, for example) without fear for your life. Then religion comes to us, dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with a smiling and ingratiating face to tell us how loving and *truthful* and *tolerant* it has become. And how it needs to be respected in an ecumenical kind of way.

Uh huh. Sure.


Posted on May 3, 2012, in Humanism, Religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: