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← 5 faulty arguments religious people use against atheists (debunked)

5 faulty arguments religious people use against atheists (debunked) - Comments

SheilaC's Avatar Comment 1 by SheilaC

As usual, Greta's spot on.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 07:16:31 UTC | #852486

JuJu's Avatar Comment 2 by JuJu

Scofield forgot the 'myth' that atheist think they know more about religion that the religious. Oh wait, silly me, I forgot about the survey that concluded atheist do no more about religion that the believers.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:03:31 UTC | #852514

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stafford Gordon

Excellent.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:04:26 UTC | #852515

Teknical's Avatar Comment 4 by Teknical

I am always amused by the premise that believing in something makes you an expert.

Sorry did I say amused? I meant outraged to the point of dispair.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:16:06 UTC | #852521

Arthur Eld's Avatar Comment 5 by Arthur Eld

Another faulty claim about atheism is calling it an ideology, a doctrine or belief. I've had discussions with theists that were stuck on this claim, none of my arguments proving the difference of atheism and ideologies penetrated their conviction (since my last debate on this issue I thought of a new way to prove the point, let's see if that one works). I don't understand why this claim seems to be so important to quite a lot of theists - seriously, I have no clue. The first time I encountered that claim I thought it was just a minor misunderstanding of what either atheism is or the word ideology means. I then had to realize that it apparently wasn't.

Assuming that I'm not the only one who has heard that particular theist talking point, I'd like to hear your points of view about this. Why is this claim of so high importance to many theists that they will repeat it no matter what?

Can it be that theists that actually secretly feel doubts somehow find it more valid to reject atheism when they can call it an ideology? And if so: Why's that? Any answers or theories on this one?

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:17:11 UTC | #852523

ridelo's Avatar Comment 6 by ridelo

Is Tikkun going to publicize this answer at Scofields article? It should because it is "dedicated to healing and transforming the world," as well as "building bridges between religious and secular progressives by delivering a forceful critique of all forms of exploitation, oppression, and domination."

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:17:49 UTC | #852525

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 7 by Stevehill

Can it be that theists that actually secretly feel doubts somehow find it more valid to reject atheism when they can call it an ideology? And if so: Why's that? Any answers or theories on this one?

Because then it's as bad as being a communist. Or a Democrat.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:34:51 UTC | #852529

Sample's Avatar Comment 8 by Sample

A schoolmarmish, clean and honest rebuke of each so-called myth concluded with a polite, "up yours" Tikkun and the ass you rode in on. Love it.

Mike

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 09:47:15 UTC | #852533

rookieatheist's Avatar Comment 9 by rookieatheist

Comment 5 by Arthur Eld :

Can it be that theists that actually secretly feel doubts somehow find it more valid to reject atheism when they can call it an ideology? And if so: Why's that? Any answers or theories on this one?

Of course it helps them reject atheism. If they can view atheism as an ideology, then they can reject it using the same irrational logic they use to reject other religions.

You can answer them by saying that we are not idealists or fundamentalists, but, like them, we are passionate about our views. Passion for passion, we can be equally matched (I think I'm paraphrasing Prof. Dawkins here). There is no crime in being passionate about a belief. The difference is that we are ultimately prepared to change our beliefs if the weight of evidence goes against those beliefs. They, on the other hand, are not prepared to change their core beliefs, regardless of the evidence that is presented to them.

We follow this flow chart, they do not.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 10:08:44 UTC | #852538

keymaker's Avatar Comment 10 by keymaker

5 faulty arguments...

... atheists think that religion by its very nature, does significantly more harm than good.

No, I don't think that case is made out by the article... Greta explains her point in "The Armor of God..." when she says:

I'm realizing that everything I've ever written about religion's harm boils down to one thing... Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die. It therefore has no reality check.

At this point there's no harm per se but she goes on:

"Of course it has other elements -- community, charity, philosophy, inspiration for art, etc. But those things exist in the secular world, too".

Which is making an comparison between religious and secular benificence rather than one of harm although it could support her point if she quantified one against the other, which she doesn't.

The article then goes on to compare religious and political ideology and concedes that both can cause harm. Greta then suggests political ideology is less harmful because a bad ideology will eventually crumble, and she gives communism as an example. Some would hold that an endless sequence of mistakes in the name of politics is just as bad, or worse, as those inspired by religion, but in any event we know that religions also come and go. Greta then develops her point about the "reality check" as if to suggest that which can't be verified is inevitably wrong. She makes the point, for example, with reference to same-sex marriage being prohibited by the Church and claims to know that when it's been put to the vote, and rejected, the reason was:

largely because... churches have been willing to tell grotesque, shameless lies... and it has been defeated because the followers of these churches implicitly trust their leaders.

Since 'lies' were told on the pro side of the debate, rather than just on the other side as she claims, and since there are other rational objections to same-sex marriage, since not everyone is religious, and since those who are don't necessarily follow the advice of their leaders, we need to be satisfied as to the sources of information she's relying on in claiming to know why people voted in the way they did... otherwise it looks like bias.

Now, just because there's no reality check to a particular religious prohibition doesn't automatically make the conduct acceptable. For example there's no reality check to the advice that "thou shalt not steal" but that doesn't necessarily invalidate the belief that stealing is wrong. In England for example we have democratic endorsement of the belief that theft is wrong in the Theft Act 1968 just as the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 requires marriage to be between a man and a woman.

Nope, bias seems to be all about but one can search in vain in this article for any 'balance sheet' or convincing argument of any sort that religion does more harm than good.

km

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 10:20:46 UTC | #852541

Arthur Eld's Avatar Comment 11 by Arthur Eld

@Steve: So you think the equation is ideology=evil? In other words, is "ideology" now a swear word per se to some people in the English-speaking world?

@rookie: I've given all those replies and more, it just had zero effect on their claim that atheism is an ideology/just another religion etc. The debates in which this "argument" came up tended to then be stuck on this point, which was kinda frustrating. I wasn't willing to let this false claim pass - I think it is important to realize the difference between an ideology and a mere rejection of the claims of religion - and the other side insisted on their false claim, no matter how often I came up with different arguments that falsified it. As I said, I recently thought of a new way that I'll test in future debates. If I understood Steve correctly and "ideology" functions as a swear word now, I understand a little better why theists tend to insist on this.

The flow chart is good, tho'.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 10:30:35 UTC | #852544

Save me jebuz!'s Avatar Comment 12 by Save me jebuz!

@Arthur I agree with Steve when he (seems to) suggest it's easy to vilify an entity like say a 'communist' or a 'democrat'. It would appear to me that our inherent diversity, cultural, ethnic and geographic hinders ones ability to pigeon-hole such a disparate group. They need a solid discernible target in their crosshairs rather than the amorphous blob we are, it simplifies their objective and indeed their argument. Ideologies are better targets.

As to your debates, perhaps you could point out that every conceived religion thus far has a geographic root in it's birth and no two ever really agree, whereas the road to enlightenment requires only a few minutes honest perusal of holy books, a few existential self-questions, a few science lectures or a few brain cells. How else can one explain the fact that non-religious folk spring up even in the most diverse of religious lands, take Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for example, vastly different origins and upbringing, same lack of faith. It's a curious thing but whereas an American evangelist and African muslim will disagree and probably dislike one another, the American and African atheist will shake hands and drink a beer.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 11:39:35 UTC | #852563

CFM's Avatar Comment 13 by CFM

@ Arthur Eld

Whole books have been written about how to define ideology. Arguing that sth. can (or cannot) be classified as ideological depends on your definition of the term.

The term is used by some in a neutral sense for systems of ideas in general, especially in the social sciences.

For others, in the tradition of Marx, ideologies are "the systematic, limited, perverse thinking of opponents he saw as intellectual tools of corrupt regimes" (http://www.semioticon.com/seo/I/ideology.html).

I guess the people you argued with about atheism used ideology in this sense: as a derogative term implying the system of ideas in question is false. Like you wrote: As a swear word.

Some social scientists think that the first definition is way too broad and thus renders the term irrelevant as an analytical term. The second definition, on the other hand, easily leads one to think that it is always the other worldview that is an ideology.

Some social scientists, like Klaus Arnold (a communication scientist) use the term ideology to refer to (all-encompassing) interpretations of the world which supposedly are true in an absolute sense and which are not open to critical examination and change. Thus, they are preserving the Marxian notion that ideologies are sth. problematic and sth. to be criticized. But they also give us a list of characteristics for deciding whether a certain system of ideas should be called an ideology or not.

I normally use ideology in the third sense. According to this definition of ideology, most religious world views are ideologies, while atheism (as normally defined), clearly is not an ideology.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 12:36:35 UTC | #852581

SoHelpMeReason's Avatar Comment 14 by SoHelpMeReason

The article Greta linked that Richard Dawkins authored was really wonderful. I really liked it very much. But I didn't even know who wrote it initially, having somehow assumed it was a separate writer who had talked to the professor and Karen Armstrong. I was like, "Geez, this philosophical, non-supernatural, version of pre-seventeenth century of religion is actually rather nice. I certainly wouldn't complain." It struck me when I figured out who had actually (metaphorically) put the pen to paper.

I know it's late and all, but still, congrats Professor! Stellar writing! Your weaving between topics and points is excellent!

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 13:25:33 UTC | #852600

Consciousmess's Avatar Comment 15 by Consciousmess

I agree with many of those points.

By the way, I watched a programme on one of the religious channels on Sky, because it had Alister McGrath on and the programme was supposed to be a debate about whether god existed. Note of course that the three speakers on it were all practising Christians, McGrath being one of them, so obviously it biased discussion on an already religious channel......

Well, each of the speakers had their turn speaking and I recall the first speaker saying something so ludicrous that I would have expected Professor McGrath to correct him. BUT NOTHING WAS SAID.

Of course I was already frustrated with this biased discussion on a pre-existing religious channel, but what I watched firmly confirms what Greta said:

"When there are no atheists there, what they discuss amongst themselves is even more ridiculous" (my wording).

You see, when sophisticated theists are up debating any of our public intellectual atheists (and I watch them all), the words they say are much more 'sanitised' in the sense that they are not as open to humilation as they would have been had discourse been taken from their own community.

That is what annoys me, and I reiterate what I saw on a Christian channel with Alister McGrath present. I know amongst atheists gatherings, people will still criticise each other in a constructive way - just like in any scientific conference - but what I saw on TV with these three theists simply appalled me!!!!

Maybe this is one of the dangers of believing something without evidence?

Jon

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 13:59:00 UTC | #852610

PERSON's Avatar Comment 16 by PERSON

atheist do no more about religion that the believers.

Comment 5 by Arthur Eld

Can it be that theists that actually secretly feel doubts somehow find it more valid to reject atheism when they can call it an ideology? And if so: Why's that? Any answers or theories on this one?

Well that's easy enough. They're accusing you of being (or trying to make the audience consider the possiblity of you being) secretly under the sway of Satan, i.e. a Communist/Demoncrat/Totalitarian/Nazi.

More seriously, if it's just a single belief, not a total way of being, a tribal identity, it's difficult for them to comprehend. Indeed, one does require those things, they just don't get (or choose not to get) that within atheism those people choose or are born into are very disparate, or that they can come from things other than their particular religion and not necessarily be evil, or even very good.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:04:24 UTC | #852613

AshFromHousewares's Avatar Comment 17 by AshFromHousewares

On the issue that religion does harm I do not hear this angle:

When a person accepts premeses on faith instead of evidence they by definition have a poorer understanding of what is real. By not having an accurate portrayal of reality they make choices based on faulty logic. We do have some minor control over the world and events, but outcomes will be statistically worse the worse the internal mental model reflects reality. In short - if these people only knew how to think properly they would likely never make as many stupid decisions and the quality of thier lives would be higher. Thus, if people tend toward doing good religion distorts thier efforts and reduces the quality of the outcomes effectively doing harm.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:06:26 UTC | #852615

jac12358's Avatar Comment 18 by jac12358

Great article!

The only part I did a second take on was this:

You can't just say, as Scofield does, that "the real source of bad behavior... is human nature, not religion"... and leave it at that. If you do -- as Scofield does -- then you're simply asserting the point you're trying to prove. Scofield is saying here, "Many atheists say religion causes bad behavior, but the real cause is human nature." And he apparently expects us to reply, "Oh. Well, that settles it. Never mind, then."

My thought was that belief in - or the tendency/propensity to believe in - religious notions is PART of our "human nature." It is therefore not a real distinction to blame religion as something as separate from our nature, since our nature created it. It would be like a celibate citing sexuality as the cause of man's problems, not his nature.

Not sure how well my point will go down.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:14:54 UTC | #852618

Tony d's Avatar Comment 19 by Tony d

The problem for the religious is that all their arguments are faulty because their premise is faulty.

Almost feel sorry for them but.... they are so smug i can't quite get to that point.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:30:45 UTC | #852625

Arthur Eld's Avatar Comment 20 by Arthur Eld

@ Those who replied to my question: Thank you all, that was very enlightening!

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:39:53 UTC | #852634

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 21 by Vorlund

I applaud, a first class, force ten debunking.

It seems a lot of atheist's energies have to be directed towards straightening out the appalling reasoning of the religious.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:12:34 UTC | #852659

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 22 by Peter Grant

All Religions are the Same and are 'Equally Crazy'

I have to agree with this one, there are quite a few atheists who seem to cling to this myth. All religions are equally irrational and therefore have equal potential for craziness, but right now Islam is the craziest.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:14:50 UTC | #852661

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 23 by Schrodinger's Cat

Frankly, there's fallacious arguments on all sides. The degree of fallaciousness often depends on which side you are on rather than any intrinsic properties.

I was struck recently by the fallaciousness of the argument of no less a person than Christopher Hitchens. He makes a damned good argument against a 'good' God by citing the sheer evil in the world. Fine, but its strange how that sheer evil magically disappears and becomes just the indifferent laws of nature when he then proposes the atheist answer. This is classic having one's cake and eating it. The 'evil' exists for refuting God.......but then mysteriously vanishes the moment God has been refuted. Clearly, if you believe that it's all just the indifferent laws of nature and good and evil are meaningless on a cosmic scale.........you cannot then rationally cite 'evil' as a reason why God doesn't exist !

Personally I think the deeper one gets into such arguments, the more fallaciousness arises on all sides. That is why I think that the best arguments against God are the simplest, such as there being absolutely no evidence that he exists. Why discuss a being in detail, when there's not the slightest evidence he exists at all ?

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:29:29 UTC | #852673

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 24 by Peter Grant

Comment 23 by Schrodinger's Cat

I was struck recently by the fallaciousness of the argument of no less a person than Christopher Hitchens. He makes a damned good argument against a 'good' God by citing the sheer evil in the world. Fine, but its strange how that sheer evil magically disappears and becomes just the indifferent laws of nature when he then proposes the atheist answer. This is classic having one's cake and eating it. The 'evil' exists for refuting God.......but then mysteriously vanishes the moment God has been refuted. Clearly, if you believe that it's all just the indifferent laws of nature and good and evil are meaningless on a cosmic scale.........you cannot then rationally cite 'evil' as a reason why God doesn't exist !

All this argument shows is that God, if he is presumed to exist, is either evil or impotent. That's why Hitchens calls himself an anti-theist. If God did exist he would not be worthy of worship.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 16:04:49 UTC | #852697

MarkOnTheRiver's Avatar Comment 25 by MarkOnTheRiver

Comment 23 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Personally I think the deeper one gets into such arguments, the more fallaciousness arises on all sides. That is why I think that the best arguments against God are the simplest, such as there being absolutely no evidence that he exists. Why discuss a being in detail, when there's not the slightest evidence he exists at all ?

I have to agree with that point of view. Anchoring an argument for the massively unlikely existence of god, on the bedrock of (lack of) evidence, is guaranteed to defeat all attempts at theistic metaphysical casuistry and general fuckwittery.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 16:39:17 UTC | #852705

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 26 by Peter Grant

Comment 25 by MarkOnTheRiver

Anchoring an argument for the massively unlikely existence of god, on the bedrock of (lack of) evidence, is guaranteed to defeat all attempts at theistic metaphysical casuistry and general fuckwittery.

There's two parts to that argument though. Usually a theist will reply, "Well what evidence would convince you?" At which point one usually needs to demonstrate that God fails even to meet the standards required for a valid hypothesis, like logical consistency and falsifiability for instance.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 17:19:56 UTC | #852727

C.Wood's Avatar Comment 27 by C.Wood

Has anyone read Scofield's reply?

I haven't read it all, but the start didn't seem very promising...

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 17:31:48 UTC | #852731

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 28 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 24 by Peter Grant

All this argument shows is that God, if he is presumed to exist, is either evil or impotent. That's why Hitchens calls himself an anti-theist. If God did exist he would not be worthy of worship.

Yes, I prefer the Dostoevsky 'trial of God' take on it. However I still think Hitchens has a problem with whatever 'objective reality' there might be to 'evil'. We can't put God on trial for crimes that in the very next breath we're agreeing with Sam Harris don't actually exist objectively. There doesn't seem to be a coherent atheist position on whether 'evil' is actually real........and Dostoevsky does cite some pretty damned objective examples.

Maybe the dilemna only exists from my 'absurdist' perspective.

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 17:50:14 UTC | #852740

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 29 by Peter Grant

Comment 28 by Schrodinger's Cat

Yes, I prefer the Dostoevsky 'trial of God' take on it. However I still think Hitchens has a problem with whatever 'objective reality' there might be to 'evil'.

His problem is no different from that of the theist's.

We can't put God on trial for crimes that in the very next breath we're agreeing with Sam Harris don't actually exist objectively.

Sam's solution is especially elegant as it avoids any essentialist conceptions of evil like guilt or sin, instead basing it on objective facts about subjective experience.

There doesn't seem to be a coherent atheist position on whether 'evil' is actually real........and Dostoevsky does cite some pretty damned objective examples.

It is as real as our experiences are, how much more real can it be?

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 18:03:30 UTC | #852747

FrozT's Avatar Comment 30 by FrozT

Comment 23 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Personally I think the deeper one gets into such arguments, the more fallaciousness arises on all sides. That is why I think that the best arguments against God are the simplest, such as there being absolutely no evidence that he exists. Why discuss a being in detail, when there's not the slightest evidence he exists at all ?

Right, but that argument has never gained any traction because it puts the burden of proof on an immutable religious construct which has evolved a crust protecting it from such altercations. The same ‘crusty reasoning’ could be exposed by asking "Can you prove Allah does not exist?" By recognizing that religion itself is a product of natural or maybe ideological selection, we can reason that the mechanisms composing their foundations are more specialized than those of any religion before them, and are particularly well suited to installation in the human mind and not so easily cracked.

Unfortunately that does not leave us with many avenues other than science vs. scripture, unless we are willing to go to bat and challenge the ideologies outright and publicly like Richard Dawkins (kudos.) As close as I can think to come, is to contend god directly and attempt to move the burden of proof:

“My existence entitles me to command more forces in this place than your god(s) do, rendering me more powerful, omniscient and benevolent. This is incontestable and I stand before you ready to be humbled or enlightened. When such a time should pass as I am no longer able to stand, you should concede or prove I do not exist.”

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 19:09:22 UTC | #852766