Monday, November 26, 2007

Do atheists hate religion?

Q: Do atheists hate religion?

A: While some atheists hate some religions, and other atheists hate all religions, not all atheists hate all (or any) religions.

Among those atheists who hate at least some religions, the reasons given vary. Some object to the teaching of any religious beliefs as fact, when such beliefs are fundamentally subjective and untestable. Others object to the actions taken on behalf of religion in the past, believing that on balance religion is more of a force for evil than for good. Still others have had bad experiences with a specific religion in their personal past, and so harbor feelings of resentment or rage for its adherents.

Most atheists, however, view religion as a lactose intolerant person views milk -- that is, something other people enjoy but they can't quite figure out why. It doesn't bother them, any more than milk-drinkers bother the lactose-intolerant. It's just sort of foreign and thus something they don't really think about all that much. If theists enjoy their religion, and it doesn't lead them to discriminate against atheists or to suppress sound scientific thinking, well then that's fine: Just because I don't like milk doesn't mean I hate you for doing so. Drink up!


missingpoints said...

The other problem is when they force us to drink milk or enact laws discriminating against lactose intolerants.

Anonymous said...

or when you make us quit milk altogether with hate speech. milk tastes great and is great for your bones. Cows help communities. Be an atheist. Just dont hate and dont think you know anything about my or anyone elses religion. Keep your atheism to yourself if possible. And learn whatever virtues you want from any religion. Mix it up. Respect us.

Jeff Hebert said...

That's very generous of you, Anonymous. We have the right to shut up and not say anything, but we CAN learn from your religion. Awesome!

john said...

Anonymous is a numbat. Religion is a force for evil, a form of cultural apartheid. And the idea that we learn virtues from religion is profoundly laughable. Religion has trademarked virtuous human characteristics, it has stolen them from us and nothing more. And another thing, Anonymous. Children should be taught rational thought in Sunday School. Then they could apply some sort of free will instead of conforming to whatever threatening pap is fed them before they're old enough to spit it up. If you were born in Mecca which god would you be cuddling up to Anonymous? I think we can all guess.

Jeff Hebert said...

I'd also disagree with that John, fairly strongly. Religion is a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or for ill. When used well, it can definitely help foster good will, kindness, compassion, empathy, and love. There is ample evidence of this throughout history.

When used poorly, it can definitely help foster hatred, rage, violence, evil, callousness, cruelty, and evil. There is also ample evidence of THIS throughout history.

I would agree that "virtues" pre-date the introduction of religion, that they are in a very real sense part of what we are as human beings. But religion, like other social tools, can be used to guide, to shape, to enforce, to curb, to mold those pre-existing feelings.

To say "religion is a force for evil" is the same as saying "government is a force for evil" or "shovels are a force for evil."

It's just a tool. One of the most powerful -- and, thus, dangerous when used for evil -- tools ever brought to bear on the human condition, yes, but just a tool.

john said...

You are a nice man Jeff and I respect the balance of your argument. But I carry the bias and comprehension of a fundamentalist upbringing and I assure you that at their core the religions I understand are evil. Stripped of its trappings the central message from Jesus in the new testament is 'love me or you're dead'. Islam is no different. These religions are utterly intolerant of your generous position, Jeff. If there were a god along the lines of the biblical god, he would cheerfully incinerate you in a lake of fire for all eternity thinking naught of your tool analogy. What I resent intensely is the fact these ancient hateful and devisive religions are framed as the primary vehicle for the delivery of human morality. You can take a moderate position about these religions, Jeff, but they will not reciprocate. I have to concede good has been done in the name of the religions I understand but I contend it's been done in significant part for the selfish attaining of eternal life by believers and less from true beneficence. Anyway, we are unlikely to agree, so I'll bow out with recognition that if everyone in the world thought the way you do, the world would certainly be a better place.

Anonymous said...

i'm a person of faith and try to respect atheists and i have a distaste for their self righteous views. many think that there is only one answer, the right one, which apparently means that they know the answer to almost everything or maybe just doesn't make sense why they hate so many things. it's called freedom of religion. maybe you should all try relgion and open your minds, instead of blatantly bashing something you know little about.

John said...

Hard for you to comprehend though this may be anonymous, the case for christianity is built on 2 logical fallacies. The first is the ad hominem of the garden of eden. Man is evil and cannot question mythology. The second logical fallacy is the fallacy from force. Believe this dogma or be incinerated forever. Now anonymous, I don't know you at all but the last being I would worship would be one who threatened you with eternal torment. Please try to reciprocate. Oh - and go do some historical-critical bible study before suggesting to those of us brought up in church who have spent decades coming to terms with our religion we do not know what we are talking about.