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10 Pieces of Redundant Dogmatic Religious Anti-Atheist Rhetoric

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posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 11:06 PM

10 myths—and 10 Truths—About Atheism By Sam Harris

SEVERAL POLLS indicate that the term “atheism” has acquired such an extraordinary stigma in the United States that being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics (in a way that being black, Muslim or homosexual is not). According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 37% of Americans would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist for president.

Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural.

Even John Locke, one of the great patriarchs of the Enlightenment, believed that atheism was “not at all to be tolerated” because, he said, “promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist.”

That was more than 300 years ago. But in the United States today, little seems to have changed. A remarkable 87% of the population claims “never to doubt” the existence of God; fewer than 10% identify themselves as atheists — and their reputation appears to be deteriorating.

Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society, it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless. On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of
meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history. People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

3) Atheism is dogmatic. Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance. No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the “beginning” or “creation” of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself.

The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, “The God Delusion,” this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don’t know precisely how the Earth’s early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase “natural selection” by analogy to the “artificial selection” performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.

5) Atheism has no connection to science. Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.

posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 11:08 PM

6) Atheists are arrogant. When scientists don’t know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion. One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn’t arrogance; it is intellectual honesty.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience. There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences.

There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate.

8 ) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding. Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it. We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature’s laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists.

From the atheist point of view, the world’s religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn’t have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society. Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as “wishful thinking” and “self-deception.” There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth.

In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality. If a person doesn’t already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won’t discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn’t make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe.

posted on Dec, 2 2009 @ 11:14 PM
Mod Edit: Didn't need to add this bit - as funny as it may have been. -alien

[edit on 2-12-2009 by alien]

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 03:20 PM
I'm assuming that the conspiracy angle is found in the implication that atheists are unjustly being denied participation in the national discourse by people of faith.

Unfortunately, the post starts with what the author considers to be a given (that atheists are often more intelligent and scientifically literate than the religious) and then sets up a string of strawmen arguments.

Where are these myths coming from? Are they constructed from whole cloth to allow the writer and his sympathizers to feel put upon and misunderstood? I don't know any reasoning individuals that are non-atheists and believe those 'myths'.


posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 03:50 PM
reply to post by GenLo

I applaud your post. It manages to give an opinion on a subject without degrading religion by name calling like "fundie" and making up humorous names for god.
Although i am not an athiest I think this should be read by all. I do believe that this is a serries of strawman arguments on a logical basis, they do hold some truth. These 10 points may not be viewed as real for some, as I do not think things like
"Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history" I see a lot of that tossed around on ATS, even i have mentioned the crimes carried out by atheist leaders. However you must remember that it takes two to fight. Here on ATS there are many on both sides that carry out the stereo-types on both sides. A thread with a title like "christians have killed millions in the name of God" would likely be responded with the stalin and Mao murder numbers.
This is a conspiracy in religion board that really has turned into just a general religion board as few threads have to do with any conspiracy. So by atheists posting threads about atheisim in the religion board is either making a statement that they would fall under the category of religion or are simply trolling.
You must see that here on ATS at least people are confronted with threads that come off as anti-religious, i am not saying that anything that points out a flaw in any religion is "anti-religious" but some of the threads we see are no more than someone preaching about how there is no God or how dumb people are for having religion in their lives.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 03:56 PM
I too think atheist is an ignorant position and equally dependent upon faith as Christianity itself.

The "correct" choice for someone who is naturally skeptical of there being a God -- is called agnostic.

Saying "there is definitely no such thing as 'God'" is equally baseless as claiming "there definitely is such a thing as 'God'." Agnostics simply say, "Don't know, don't care, as it doesn't seem vitally relevant at this moment."

Saying you are an atheist says something about your overall tendency to doubt and not trust. Doubt and distrust are pessimistic attitudes towards life. Basically don't be such a sourpuss. No one likes it.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 04:03 PM
Every christian should read this, then proceed to deny ignorance, instead of embrace it.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 04:08 PM
reply to post by GenLo

You must also see why the idea of Atheists being anti-christian is in existance as when claims about religion are made by atheists they are said about religion as a whole then go on to use only Abrahamic religions as examples. It would be simmilar to the claim that atheists are pro communist and pro mass murder based on the actions of the Atheist communist dictators we have had in history.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 05:07 PM

Originally posted by GenLo
Mod Edit: Didn't need to add this bit - as funny as it may have been. -alien

[edit on 2-12-2009 by alien]

Oh come on what if it was made into a topic? Or are sexual topics not allowed on the ATS?

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 05:23 PM

Originally posted by GypsK
ok, define "spiritual atheist" pls

how can you be spiritual AND atheist? or is that the same as "I believe in a spiritual wholeness but not in a creator"?
I'm not getting it

This question is from on of my other ATS threads Like minded thinkers?.

Yes, I plead guilty. I posted this thread for personal reasons rather than for the good of the many. Truly though this article reflects what I have come to find from many religious people.

Strawman arguments? Perhaps. Its simply in reflection from personal experience and generalities, the kind of cannon fodder that religious folk (generally christians) toss "our" way.

I mean is it so wrong that I posted this? I don't think it could possibly hold a candle to such gems like: Jesus Christ is the only way

If this corner of ATS hasn't been devoted to trolling I don't know what has. Alas trolling was not my goal for this post.

These are arguments brought up by the religious community and the answers are generally not acknowledged.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 08:45 PM
Just for my own amusement. And maybe yours:

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

I personally have never though this to be the case. Furthermore, the assertion is beyond ignorance. It's just as ignorant as contending that all people who live with faith are stupid and incapable of critical thought.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.

Humans are responsible for all crimes. Their ability to believe in a deity is irrelevant. There's a difference between believing in a deity and using that as an excuse to do harm.

3)Atheism is dogmatic.

All “isms” are dogmatic. After all, we're discussing the conscious decision to believe or reject belief.

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

Most don't. Some do. However, as an ideological stance which is gaining in popularity, I suspect there will be divisions within the group on this point. Ever wonder how religions form splinter groups on seemingly trivial points. Stay tuned, it will happen with Atheism too.

5)Atheism has no connection to science.

So then Atheism has a connection to science? Really? It is 'scientific' to reject the possibility that something is outside your ability to comprehend? It doesn't smack of scientific reasoning to me.

6)Atheists are arrogant.

I regret repeating myself (sort of) but all “ists” are arrogant. To declare oneself to a single modality of thought and expression is the height of arrogance. This is an equal opportunity offense against zealotry in the world.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

I don't know what predisposes a person to be 'open' to spiritual experience. But I do know that religious belief or non-belief doesn't seem to have dissuaded a great many of the worlds 'spiritual ' leaders – many of them started out as quite 'worldly.'

8 ) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.

Making such an assertion is ignorance exalted. It is as obtuse as saying religious people are incapable of accepting challenges to their understanding of God.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.

This is a fallacious statement. I'm not sure how best to explain other than directly challenging the idea that any collective group of humans can be 'beneficial' to society as a whole. Religion is an expression of culture, it takes many forms, the same can be said of partisanship, at the secular level. In and of itself, ideology, atheism included, is self-serving.

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

You would have to be blind to history and ignorant of reality to believe that morality and any form of 'ism' are common bedfellows.

... It was a compulsion... I can't resist lists like these...

[edit on 3-12-2009 by Maxmars]

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:02 PM
Umm...sorry if I may interject...where is the source for that article? Is that the entire thing also?

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:10 PM
I didn't get past this;

Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society,

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:13 PM

Originally posted by Clearskies
I didn't get past this;

Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society,

Did I miss something?


posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:16 PM
OP I've starred and flagged your thread - it's a fantastic piece of writing.

It will be interesting to see how the christians view this. They will probably look at it, deride it, troll it, ignore it, and carry on about their hypocritical day.

Quite frankly, America can stuff it if those misconceptions about Atheists are commonplace. No wonder America is descending into fascism with all these fundamentalist ignorant beliefs floating about.

Lets see how long it is before the ATS Christian Mafia start trolling this thread, in an effort to drown it in spam, and stop it from making waves like it should do.

The Para.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:18 PM

Originally posted by LiveForever8

Originally posted by Clearskies
I didn't get past this;

Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society,

Did I miss something?


Yes, the fact that atheists are OBVIOUSLY more intelligent than religious people. The very nature of an atheist makes it so. It's awfully dim of people to be religious.

The Para.

[edit on 3-12-2009 by Parallex]

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:19 PM
reply to post by LiveForever8

Oh, the irony!
Whining about Christian arrogance with words like those!
Whiniitis is certainly to blame!

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:20 PM

Originally posted by Agree2Disagree
Umm...sorry if I may interject...where is the source for that article? Is that the entire thing also?

From Sam Harris' website:

An excellent writer--star and flag for the OP.

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:25 PM
reply to post by Clearskies

You didn't get past the word "given?" Must be your Christian sized brain. Let me help you:

given |ˈgivən|
past participle of give .
1 specified or stated : our level of knowledge on any given subject.
2 [ predic. ] ( given to) inclined or disposed to : she was not often given to anger.
3 conferred or bestowed as a gift : she squandered what was a given opportunity.
4 archaic Law (of a document) signed and dated : given under my hand this eleventh day of April.
taking into account : given the complexity of the task, they were able to do a good job.
a known or established fact or situation : at a couture house, attentive service is a given.

Now you know!

posted on Dec, 3 2009 @ 09:26 PM
I don't care what any atheist believes, personally, as long as they don't suppress, attack or mud-sling at my people or me.
I just can't stomach this articles' assertion of atheistic grandeur and Christian insults.
But thats just me.....................

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