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Looking for an Atheist Perspective

I’ve been reading some Christian-themed blog posts lately and have noticed that sometimes atheists with dissenting viewpoints will comment, at times with honest input but sometimes with hostility and derision. Why is that? Why, indeed, do you read them in the first place? If you don’t believe in life after death… if you believe that death is the end, then what does it matter what I think anyway? Particularly if the results of my faith are things like greater personal honesty and responsibility, kindness and generosity.

I can’t buy the argument that it’s about truth because, again, why does the truth matter if we die and don’t go on? If my way of life brings me fulfillment, why work so hard to destroy that, especially when you can’t prove it wrong?

And if you’ve had a bad experience with people claiming religion as their justification for bad behavior, well… people can pervert ANY cause. I, too, oppose any perpetuation of discrimination, bigotry, cruelty and disease. It IS okay and, in fact, right for each person to discern between what they believe is good and what they believe is evil or wrong. Everyone does it, whether or not they are religious, so the “judgmental” argument falls apart for me, too.

Please don’t think I am trying to be incendiary here. And this really isn’t a rhetorical question. I would love some sincere input to better understand where you’re coming from. Thank you!

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7 thoughts on “Looking for an Atheist Perspective

  1. Well, I’m not an atheist at this point, but I do interact with them frequently and feel much kinship with them. I’d personally say the reasons for the behavior you see are threefold:

    – Many atheists feel that they are marginalized by the religious, and some feel the only way to counteract that situation is to engage in vociferous, aggressive propagation of the minority view.

    – Some atheists believe that a religious worldview is dangerous, and that the world would be a safer place for themselves and those they care about if such views were extinguished. Effectively, they think that religion is not just being co-opted as an excuse for bad behavior, but that it is fundamentally generating certain bad behaviors that wouldn’t otherwise come about.

    – Thoroughgoing atheism is relatively rare, so those who come to it typically had to go through a difficult intellectual path to get there. Accordingly, they feel a strong sense of ownership for their views, and it’s almost offensive to them how some people seem to simply “fall into” a default theism without exploring it particularly rigorously first.

    As a final note, many atheists really do think they can prove theism wrong.

    Interesting post!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response. ๐Ÿ™‚ Well put. I can understand all of those considerations. I empathize with irritation at seemingly “default” beliefs. But I sure hate it when someone presumes that my beliefs, or anyone’s, are not thoroughly vetted. Faith is often hard-won. The fact of the matter is that there are incredibly smart scholars, scientists and philosophers who support both views. Therefore, intellectual superiority on its own seems like a moot criterion to me. Thanks again!

  2. “Why is that? Why, indeed, do you read them in the first place?”

    First of all, this is the internet. If you were to post “I like bunnies”, it wouldn’t take long before you had several comments wanting to debate the merits of bunnies with you. And some would do so quite passionately.

    Some people like to argue. But also, some people like to have interesting and even passionate discussions about certain topics. I know I do.

    “Particularly if the results of my faith are things like greater personal honesty and responsibility, kindness and generosity.”

    If that’s all your faith did, and all the faith of anyone did, I wouldn’t mind one bit.

    It’s when faith not unlike yours (though perhaps yours, I don’t know) tries to impose itself on others against their will that I have a problem. Examples being: preventing homosexuals from getting married, teaching religion as science in public schools, etc.

    “I canโ€™t buy the argument that itโ€™s about truth because, again, why does the truth matter if we die and donโ€™t go on?”

    Why does it matter to whom? It can matter to me if I choose for it to matter to me.

    And knowing the truth generally leads to more benefits and less harm.

    “If my way of life brings me fulfillment, why work so hard to destroy that, especially when you canโ€™t prove it wrong?”

    Who is trying to destroy your way of life? And how?

    ” people can pervert ANY cause.”

    Sure. But religions also say things, point blank, that can be harmful.

    1. If we take away most of the considerations of organized religion, leaving only a belief in God and a belief that we have an innate sense of right and wrong and that to follow that carefully and honestly is to honor God, would you find that harmful? Just wondering at what point it starts to really concern you. ๐Ÿ™‚

      “Who is trying to destroy your way of life? And how?”

      Please forgive my tendency to use dramatic language. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, please understand, I think people who are religious SHOULD be able to defend their beliefs and be educated enough that their faith can withstand questioning and even ridicule. But, if someone is diligently trying to convince me that my faith is not valid, and succeeds, while I might not entirely change my way of life it would be an incredible personal loss. The reasons for the way I choose to live are deeper than, “It’s good for society” or “because it makes me feel good.” And quite frankly, I don’t see how any other considerations could matter if I don’t believe in a hereafter. And personal experience has shown me that such motives leave something to be desired. There is simply something deeper than that. I know, that’s hardly objective, but it’s the honest response I have at the moment!

      Has religion done more harm than good? That’s debatable, I’m sure, but most of the people I know who practice a religion and combine that with sincere belief are tolerant, kind and generous. Sometimes they are uncompromising in their conviction, but then it would seem that you are, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I certainly know that is NOT everyone’s experience. I don’t believe that God condones misuse of his name and cause. And again, most causes say things that are harmful. Politics for example. Political views can be detrimental. Do you think we should do away with politics in general? Probably not. Bringing to light and correcting reasons for the detrimental beliefs, though, would be progress. But yes, I will concede that people have sometimes made religion something terrible, something it never had any business being.

      I get very frustrated when people assume that belief in an interactive God is easy or dismiss it as stupid. Most of us are VERY aware that supernatural beliefs in this culture and time do not seem obvious and even seem absurd. It isn’t something we come to easily or without exploration. And in fact, upon closer examination there is logical philosophical, scientific and historical support for our beliefs. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

  3. Wow. This is a heck of a question….and I will attempt a reasoned response in defense of my fellow pagans.
    I am an atheist. I read your blog because you are intelligent, thoughtful, and willing to put your journey out there for the world to share in. I do not believe we can ever have too much questioning of or exploration of spirituality – and if that can happen in a public arena, so much the better.
    For me, belief is not concrete. My personal experience of the world is always in flux, liquid and flexible – and I hope to be able to say that for the rest of my life. I know that is true for you, and I respect you so much for it.
    Speaking for myself, I am taken aback when a discussion of religious belief with someone ends in an attempt on their part to convert or evangelize. I would never presume to try to “convert” someone to atheism – I have a deep respect for the beliefs that guide the lives of others, and do not presume that my way is better than theirs simply because it is mine. I do not assume that they are damned because they were brought up with a different faith than the one I have adopted. That makes it hard for me to ignore the insult offered so cavalierly by many (not all!) Christians when they say that they “will pray for me”. Great. Thanks for that.
    Is it so hard to see how this incredibly condescending attitude engenders some amount of anger – even hostility? And these are the faithful who are motivated by a sincere desire to share in the true happiness – the peace and enlightenment – that they have found in their faith. A noble intention, clumsily executed.
    Worse are those who are simply threatened by any belief that contradicts their own, and feel it necessary to try to extinguish it. In this category, I lump religious extremists of all kinds – I believe deeply that they are the greatest possible threat to our civilization. Sound melodramatic? I won’t bother to try to record here all the instances of war and atrocity and simple hatred motivated by – justified by! – the clashing of religious beliefs.
    These tend to be the same people who oppose things like gay marriage (to repeat a theme from one of the previous commenters here), claiming that gays are dangerous because they are out to convert and evangelize. Wait, have I used that phrase already? How ironic.
    Personally, I will again say that I respect and honor the beliefs of others. However, when they begin to marginalize and disenfranchise me, I take exception, and sometimes I get angry. When my government asks me to pledge to a God I don’t believe in, why am I expected to simply accept that? As a Christian, would you feel comfortable pledging to “one state, under Mohammed”? Why must EVERY campaign speech in the history of this country end in “God bless the United States of America”?
    Alright – before I become hopelessly tangential: the best circumstance would be one that allowed the free discussion of spirituality WITHOUT judgement or preconception. WITHOUT a need to impose the views of one set of believers on another……Ahhhh, Utopia. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Anyone else?

    1. I love you for commenting. And for your flattery, which you are, of course, completely obligated to offer since you know me personally, and all of my awesomeness. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      You know that I agree with much of what you said. And I won’t and can’t argue with you about peoples’ misuse of religion to oppress or scorn or shame or force. What comes through for me is that we BOTH feel marginalized and judged much of the time, and I really hate that.

      One thing that caught me that I do want to comment on is this:

      “And these are the faithful who are motivated by a sincere desire to share in the true happiness โ€“ the peace and enlightenment โ€“ that they have found in their faith. A noble intention, clumsily executed.”

      Maybe some people really do feel they have this; I can only speak for myself, but true happiness, peace and enlightenment is a complete misconception. If I were expecting nirvana here and now when I accepted God, I’d be mightily disappointed. I do have hope for it some day some way, though. It is HARD to sustain my beliefs. They frequently provoke me because I am ever examining my actions and motives and am obliged (if I wish to be true to what I believe) to do things that are entirely outside of my comfort zone. To quote from James 2:26, “…faith apart from works is dead.” The beliefs I have, if sincere, should manifest themselves in positive and tangible ways. I’m still working on that, to be honest. Bottom line, sometimes faith makes life even more difficult.

      …and speaking of tangential… Sorry! But you knew what you were getting into. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love you. Have a great day!!

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