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← Why Are Atheists So Angry?

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by Jos Gibbons

Why Are Atheists So Angry?

Partly because religious people will use literally any criterion for deciding whether to be theists other than whether evidence for theism’s truth exists. Calling atheists angry is a good example of this.

How harmless is it to post an article about why people should read the bible on a site devoted to religion?

One’s use of one’s free speech is often harmless, but it may well elicit a critical, harmless response from others’ free speech.

it evoked more than 2,000 responses, most of them angry. I had previously written a similarly gentle article about how God should be taught to children that evoked more than 1,000 responses, almost all negative and many downright nasty.

“Angry” and “nasty” are quite subjective concepts, and we could argue indefinitely about what percentage of the posts were like that. The important thing to remember is one is more likely to deem a critical post against one’s work as “angry” or “nasty” than is someone else who isn’t of one’s own mind, and a post is more likely to be critical in the first place if the audience agrees to a lesser extent with the author. It’s worth bearing in mind “disagreement” may be disagreement with the claims made, or thinking the arguments offered to support them invalid, or feeling lies, misrepresentations etc. are used, or feeling the author hasn’t bothered researching the topic or authors they’re discussing. Note none of these are genuinely personal attacks.

It is curious a religion site draws responses mostly from atheists, and the atheists are very unhappy.

A public site discussing a topic, even if it is pro one side, can expect a sizeable response from people of all views and none on the issue. What is more, the notions of “unhappy”, “angry” etc. will be more likely to be ascribed by the author to those who disagree with him, for the reasons mentioned above (both the lens through which critique is viewed and who is likely to offer a critique).

They are unhappy with the bible, the idea of God and anyone who presumes to offer religious advice to the religious.

They are unhappy with thinking conclusions are reasonable due to the Bible asserting they are true, believing a god exists without evidence, praising the god of religious texts when the deities in question are often morally reprehensible in their described decisions, and (like most people) with efforts to propagate views they think are utterly wrong, whether as advice to those who already accept such ideas or as advice to those who don’t (and, in truth, Holpe would have preferred his advice to be taken on board by non–religious people too).

Only the untutored assume religious people predominate on websites devoted to religion.

Does anyone assume that? What form does the corrective tutoring take?

In the past when I have debated noted atheists the audience was heavily weighted toward my opponents. Why seek out a religious site solely to insult religion? I wondered: Why are atheists so angry?

One isn’t angry merely because one seeks to comment on a website where one’s view may be in the minority or, as Holpe points out, the majority. It is not as if in any case the Washington Post’s religion section aims to be pro–religious; it wishes to discuss religion per se. Holpe’s criteria for assessing who is angry will result in him feeling that way about all commentators he encounters who disagree with him.

They are convinced religion is a fairy tale that impedes rational thought. No avalanche of counterexamples, from noted scientists who are believers to the way in which the scientific method has flourished in the monotheistic west (as opposed to say, the non-monotheistic eastern societies) will serve to dissuade. That which is understood to have happened to Galileo is all, apparently, one needs to know.

Religious scientists don’t mean religion doesn’t impede science. With millions of scientists in the world, it’s interesting the same example or two keeps getting mentioned all the time, such as Francis Collins. Nor can we assume science flourished in monotheistic societies because of their monotheism; aside from the post hoc fallacy, one must wonder also why such societies took so long to do science, why they destroyed all the records they could of earlier science, and why that earlier science was done by those in polytheistic societies, and why in both types of society scientists have tended to be less mainstream in their views on religion and have become more so over time. The Galileo affair is noted not so much as an end–all point but as a classic example of how we should and should not think; accept science, and do not let any other way of thinking trump it. Unfortunately, religion continues to make people fail in this regard on a massive scale, and that is a powerful objection to it.

There is an arrogant unwillingness to engage with religion's serious thinkers.

Insofar as this is true, it could be because even the most thorough debunking of the views of one theologian only meets with “But you haven’t done this one yet”. There are too many theologians to deal with this; however, if any pro–religion argument actually worked, it would be so famous the bad ones would no longer be recited.

Too many internet users hope a couple of insults will substitute for argument.

There, fixed.

They suffer from the incredulity of those who cannot believe anyone would disagree.

Oh, atheists know others would disagree all right. Many atheists are former theists.

"I am right" becomes "you are stupid for disagreeing."

Atheist criticisms of religious writers on the Internet actually don’t call the writer stupid very often. The rationality (only of the position at hand) is often questioned, but the individual’s intelligence is not.

In a world in which so much is still not understood, to discount the supernatural is to lack the openness to mystery that should be a human hallmark. Firstly, we should aim to be rational, not “human”. (Humans vary quite a lot.) Secondly, the use of the supernatural to “explain” the currently inexplicable doesn’t actually work; it is an argument from personal incredulity, but offers no new insights. Thirdly, open–mindedness means being open to new ideas when evidence supports them, not at all times.

All of us ought to be astonished by our miraculous ability to talk, think, dream and disagree.

That’s not miraculous; that would mean it violates physical law. Clearly it does not, as it is routine. It’s really, really cool, but that’s not the same thing.

Fri, 11 Mar 2011 10:23:38 UTC | #601306