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They find your lack of faith disturbing

The Atlantic's study of the day today looks at why religious folk - Christians in particular hate atheists so much. They're not a political threat, the study claims, so why do we theists care?


The blurb at the Atlantic says this animus comes from distrust. In the study report's abstract they quote from John Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration: "Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist." This is supposed to be the root of the theists' distrust, because the things that make us behave simply don't apply to them. That just makes no sense to me. I mean, are my fellow Christians really saying the only thing that keeps them from rape, murder, and torturing kittens for fun and profit is that God told them not to? So much for the inner light of reason, I guess.

In case it needs to be said (and I had really thought this went without saying): the atheists I know are by and large decent, moral people. They do not reject religion because they don't want to be constrained by divine law. More often than not, they have rejected religion because they find its moral standards too low (think pedophilia scandals, the church's stance on war or homosexuality or poverty, etc.). It is perfectly possible to live morally without being religious. Now the theist may answer back that this does not make you a good person, that theologically your morality doesn't count for much. But that doesn't stop your atheist neighbor from being trustworthy. He really will return your clippers, and he can be trusted with biggger things too.

Including, for example, public office.


I know sometimes I go off a lot about religion, and that perhaps it's best to consign these attitudes to the obscurity they deserve. But this was a scientific study polling nearly 800 Americans and Canadians, and so I feel compelled to make absolutely clear: this Christian doesn't share those views. If my faith is right, then the atheism/theism divide is serious, no doubt about it. But not quite that serious. I can still see and respect the humanity in atheists, and think it's a damned shame if other religious folk can't.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
*shakes head*sighs*

There are atheists who are better and more trustworthy in their personal lives than some Christians I know.

I don't fear or distrust atheists in general or as individuals. I dislike strident atheists who tend to be just as dogmatic in their proclamations of non-faith as certain types of believers are in their proclamations of faith. I dislike a lot of atheist arguments which appear to me to be beside the point. But I have quite a few atheist and agnostic friends who like me in spite of me being Christian.

I am sometimes *saddened* by the thought that these lovely people are missing out on a level of joy and possibilities that they are denied by their own rejection. But it's not my place to judge. I witness by my actions and sometimes by my words, but the end results are not up to me. And in the meanwhile I will enjoy knowing other people whether they agree with me or not.

To paraphrase C.S.Lewis' argument in "The Weight of Glory", a non-believer can be kind, honest, loyal, loving and trustworthy without belief-- but could be so much more so if he believed. And a Christian can be pinched, dishonest and unpleasant-- but could be much worse if she did *not* believe. (I wish I could remember the exact quote, but the book apparently is not in its correct place...)

BTW: It just occurred to me-- 800 people are still not a very good sampling. Perhaps they just didn't ask the right people...

Edited at 2011-12-19 07:22 pm (UTC)
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
*nods* If being "good" theologically means accepting whatever some church says is okay, without questioning it, then I want no part of that.

Although the reason I reject religion is not because its standards are too low, but because I see no persuasive reason to believe what it wants me to believe. There is no convincing proof of the existence of god, and without that, what is there to believe? That's the base of it. I won't even get into the more complicated and weird beliefs like a human being somehow being a god, too.
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
I'm fascinated by the fact that atheists are matched in their fervor only by theists. ;)

That is, both theists and atheists care--deeply, and on a very granular level--about something that has little impact on their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Believing doesn't make it easier to breathe in and out, for example, and neither does not-believing. The weather is not better for the theist than it is for the atheist, etc.

I've been reading a lot of Christopher Hitchens in the days since his death, and I have to say that the single best word to describe his New Atheism is strident. He sincerely believed that the rational "crusade" (what a convenient little word the history of Christianity has given us!) against religion was one of the most important battles of this century. I can't say I share that view, because it's not something I feel particularly strongly about, either philosophically or practically.

I guess this makes me an apatheist, lol.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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