I’m tired of arrogant atheists


After following a mind numbing thread on another blog I’d like to vent a little bit of the steam that has accumulated in my mind. I’ve known a lot of people that don’t have any particular religious faith. Some would even call themselves atheists. They usually have a live and let live outlook and everything is fine.

It is the Christian converts to atheism that bug me. It isn’t because they offer all these compelling arguments that undermine my religious assumptions. It is because they think they do when they don’t. They become very adept at deconstructing their previous religious thought assuming that all there is to know about Christianity or religion is what they experienced. In many cases that experience is a shallow, anti-intellectual form of evangelicalism.

From what I’ve observed in online communities like Digg some proponents of atheism exhibit the same kinds of tendencies of the religious fundamentalists they ridicule. I observed one video where their vaulted idol Mr. Dawkins was stumped by a question asked by a creationist. Eventually he gave an answer to a question that wasn’t asked. Immediately people started making accusations that the video footage was doctored. They just couldn’t deal with the possibility that one of those idiot creationists actually asked a question that Dawkins didn’t answer effectively. Much like many religious fundamentalists they become irrational when someone tries to deconstruct a piece of their worldview.

For me this isn’t evidence that Dawkins is wrong just that he is human. In another situation he might have come up with a very good response. The video may have been doctored for all I know. My point is that people couldn’t handle the notion their man could be wrong.

There is a garden variety atheism that provides a crutch much in the same way religion can be a crutch. Instead of believing in a supernatural deity they believe in the intellectual superiority of their position and that gives their life meaning. They are better because they smarter. Their purpose switched from serving God to rescuing themselves and others from destructive religious myths. What I never understand is why they have to perpetually revisit the issue. If I gave up on Christianity I’d just carry on with my life with a few less moral inhibitions and leave it at that.

In this brand of atheism I see fundamentalists switching their fundamentals but remaining largely in the same old trappings of dead religion. The ideology changes but the insulation, fear of change, sense of arrogance, and unwillingness to any credence to any evidence outside their chosen realm of knowledge is all the same.

  1. #1 by becky on September 25, 2007 - 1:35 am

    I think I may know of the same “mind numbing thread” you’re referring to above — and if so, I agree with your labelling of it, but probably for entirely different reasons than you’d list.

    As you disdainfully mention, you’ve witnessed ex-Christian atheists rely on their intelligence (some to the point of using it in a form of superiority) as the primary method of proving their position.

    I could counter that statement by saying I’ve seen many Christians use their morality as their chosen form of superiority in an argument. (“a few less moral inhibitions?” — c’mon, LT.)

    Where does that leave us in a conversation? Are believers and non-believers destined to talk past each other? Why are non-believers labeled with such negative motivations whenever they enter religious discussions? If you have no belief, why are your motives automatically suspect if you revisit issues of religious concern?

    There’s a lot of generalizations in your post above that don’t hold true with many non-believers, myself included. I’d encourage you to look beyond the supposedly “fundamentalist” exceptions in atheistic communities to see other, more representative non-believers in conversation with believers. (a couple of blogs that have ongoing Christian/atheist dialogue are Conversations at the Edge and Off the Map’s EBay Atheist blog)

    Maybe in a small handful of atheists you could find “insulation, fear of change, sense of arrogance, and unwillingness to any credence to any evidence outside their chosen realm of knowledge” — but I betcha I could find way more religious people who are defined by those tenets than I could those who are irreligious.

    Then again, this isn’t a contest to see who can best generalize the other side. Or is it? Maybe we should all just put aside our agendas and actually listen to what the other side has to say (realizing that listening doesn’t equate agreeing).

    Just my intellectually superior 2 cents. :) (sarcasm, people!)

  2. #2 by Jadon on September 25, 2007 - 3:06 pm

    Ummm, Becky? This does seem to protest too easily here. I don’t think LT assumed that this post was applicable to all atheists/nonbelievers. He seemed more concerned with those “true disbelievers” or “insecure converts” who just sabotage the rest by acting overly defensive because of their experiences. Moreover, he mentioned *in the first paragraph* that some nonreligious people he knows are mainly relaxed about where they position themselves compared with others.

    Ex-believers can certainly seem preoccupied with deconverting the masses, which creates more problems than it solves. Sometimes they will compensate for their previous posture by painting all believers with the same brush. Sometimes they will compensate by assuming responsibility in challenging the religious to the point of discounting any genuine response by the religious. This doesn’t assist anybody effectively, but only reflects the attitude and ambition of their previous life instead of the relative place where they are now.

    This seems to be the main point LT was making.

  3. #3 by becky on September 25, 2007 - 3:22 pm

    Ummmm, Jadon? Generalizations are generalizations. There were some pretty broad brushstrokes taken here in this post, and while they may not apply to all non-believers (which I don’t think I implied — I mentioned the specific ex-Christian atheist targets), I think my points are still valid. Incidentally, I think it’s interesting that even you can’t see some of the assumptions you’ve made in your retort above.

    The point I was making in my initial comment was that we need to listen to the other side more — rather than generalizing with lots of “they” statements — and that’s advice I intend to take, myself, when it comes to debates about religion.

  4. #4 by LT on September 25, 2007 - 4:59 pm

    “I think I may know of the same “mind numbing thread” you’re referring to above — and if so, I agree with your labelling of it, but probably for entirely different reasons than you’d list.”

    I dunno, there might be some overlap…

    Where does that leave us in a conversation?

    What conversation? About once a month I go for wings with a pretty openly athiest/agnostic type who has never followed any particular religious faith. He’s been known to throw a few curve balls at me. We had one really good chat after he read some God Delusion. He doesn’t ever treat me like I’m stupid even though what I believe doesn’t make any sense to him. I share my view, he shares his and I feel no obligation or pressure to make him to conform to my way of thinking. I believe God gave us a free will for a reason.

    But when you get down to the nitty gritty there can be no conversation when one side is convinced the proponents of religious faith are viewed as deeply deluded or mentally ill.

    This online stuff isn’t conversation. Consider carefully how you interpreted my post.

    “I could counter that statement by saying I’ve seen many Christians use their morality as their chosen form of superiority in an argument. (“a few less moral inhibitions?” — c’mon, LT.)”

    Actually I wasn’t intending to imply anything about being superior because my morality, I was just being very honest in saying I would likely indulge in a few personal vices if I didn’t think there were “spiritual consequences” to indulging in such things. I just wasn’t prepared to write “hello pornville” on the front page of my blog.

    This sort of stuff repeats itself time and time again so I’ve largely lost faith in the medium, and have grown tired of the personal attacks.

  5. #5 by becky on September 25, 2007 - 7:14 pm

    This online stuff isn’t conversation. Consider carefully how you interpreted my post.

    I suppose I see conversations as a medium extending beyond just a face to face chat. While that may indeed be the most ideal form of expressing ideas, I think there can be other ways to conversate as well (electronically, by telephone, etc). Written mediums (like comments on a blog) sometimes allow for more in-depth responses than what can be given in spur-of-the-moment verbal reactions. Anything that I say online here I would say verbally in a conversation — though probably not as articulately.

    Anyway, I did “consider carefully” your post.

    Maybe that’s why I de-lurked long enough to comment on the purported stereotypes of arrogant intellectualist atheists whose (evangelical?) mission is to disillusion believers who they think are deluded/mentally ill.

    I guess you could say that I, too, am tired of the personal attacks.

  6. #6 by LT on September 25, 2007 - 10:17 pm

    Anyway, I did “consider carefully” your post.

    You did however get something I wrote totally wrong. Something as innocuous as an admission of a personal weakness was interpreted as attempt at projecting superiority.

    This illustrates the weakness of online communication. It is way too easy for people to misinterpret what people say.

    You did capture my opinion well on one thing. There is a very specific group of ex-Christian atheists, they come across arrogant, they think they are intellectuals, and they take great pleasure in attacking Christianity because they think Christians are deluded or crazy.

  7. #7 by Jadon on September 25, 2007 - 11:43 pm

    Becky:

    I realize what you were trying to say in your original comment. It is frustrating to be misunderstood, whether believer or nonbeliever, which makes finding common ground a challenge. It can lead to defensiveness and make clarity difficult, especially in imperfect media like blog comments. I still believe that LT’s original post was trying not to generalize about nonbelievers, but I understand how easy it is to respond as you did.

    However, because communication online is prone to negative or critical reaction, even when unwarranted, it is worthwhile to be prudent. Further inquiry first to determine if one’s perception was accurate would prove fruitful here. Moreover, allowing for the most charitable interpretation of your opponents would’ve been to your advantage, particularly since you seem to not be articulate as well as required in this medium sometimes.

    Anyways, I hope that doesn’t sound patronizing. I don’t mean it to be. If there is one thing on which we both can agree, it’s that negative, defensive postures of either believers or nonbelievers help no one. As a believer myself, I hope for better discussions in the future. I trust that you will do the same.

  8. #8 by becky on September 25, 2007 - 11:44 pm

    I’m disappointed, LT.

    Apparently I’ve gotten more things wrong than just my supposed misinterpretation. I didn’t think you were so passive aggressive and radically prejudiced against people who you don’t agree with. That wasn’t the LT I used to know, but I know it has been a long time since we’ve talked.

    I wasn’t going to dwell on the whole morality comment of yours, but since you’ve brought it up, why not? I find it interesting that you require “spiritual consequences” in order to do the right thing. Why can’t you do the right, moral, ethical thing for the sake of itself? Why is it necessary to cower in fear? How is it more moral to act out of fear than it is to do something for the sake of itself? I’m sorry that your personal weakness requires such a strong-armed, vindictive supernatural force.

    I see you stand behind your stereotypes about ex-Christian atheists. Since my contributions aren’t recognized in this conversation, I suppose I might as well throw in my own generalization. I suppose now I can assert that I know a specific group of Christians who take pleasure in their own superior position of judging others (intellectually and/or morally).

    You know, once I had a “pastor” of a house church accuse me of having a shallow, anti-intellectual view of Christianity as he was trying to bulldoze his own superiority over me and some others. Maybe you remember him. Now I can say you’ve said the same thing to me.

    I won’t be back, so no response is necessary — you can even delete this comment, if you’d like. If you want to continue this non-conversation, you can email or call me.

  9. #9 by LT on September 26, 2007 - 7:37 am

    It is funny how words can be misconstrued. In my original post I made it very clear that I was speaking of a very specific group of people. Despite using phrases like “garden variety” and “brand” and “some proponents” and later on in the comments “very specific group” but I’m attacked for generalizing all ex-Christian atheists. I defined the group I speak of by the their behavior, not by the label.

    Forgive me but I’ve experienced far to many ex-fundy atheists continually trash Christianity.

    It is really sad that you chose to now attack me on my admission of personal weakness. By bringing it up I hoped to defuse things and add a little humour.

    You really don’t understand my understanding of Christianity, because I certainly do not cower in fear of a vindictive God.

  10. #10 by LT on September 26, 2007 - 9:22 am

    To all those who have made it this far in the thread:

    I think I am sorry I posted what I did because I knew it would be inflammatory. These days I usually catch myself and avoid hitting the publish button. I still think what I wrote is true, it is what I’ve observed and I wanted to say it. I probably could have worded things differently, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do.

  11. #11 by RyeShy on September 26, 2007 - 2:25 pm

    Sometimes ‘The Truth’™ © hurts… Other times it’s crafted to.

  12. #12 by LT on September 26, 2007 - 7:42 pm

    Whoa! Hows it goin RyeShy? Haven’t seen you in awhile.

  13. #13 by Keanan on September 26, 2007 - 11:21 pm

    Not gonna weigh in on this one too deeply, especially since it is already so weighty, but I just wanted to add my “Amen” to LT’s original post.

    I have a friend who is a fellow writer and an atheist, and he is suspicious of anything in my work that smacks of religion. He, however, can say what he pleases, because that’s art and it’s his right. A double standard that he as an atheist can apparently get away with, but which I as a Christian had better never do.

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