Atheism: A Hate Movement

Got a live one in the comments of one of my posts yesterday.

JT, Love Your Work.

Thou shalt not bear false witness…

Atheists like you insure that Atheism will remain the irrational hate movement that it has become.

Zing! The guy who believes someone rose from the dead 2,000 years ago called people who don’t believe that irrational. Now I’m sad.

And you call atheism a hate movement. To an extent, I guess you can say that it is. We hate irrationality and think it’s something to dispel from the human condition. We hate the results of institutionalized unreason. We hate food banks that require church attendance before they will feed the poor. We hate the suppression of equal rights for all. We hate how misinformation and needless hate can be spread under the banner of love because of some gut-wrenchingly stupid ideas from a time of comparatively great human ignorance that have been enshrined and made durable by suckers like you.

We should hate these things. We should fight them with all the breath that’s in us. I wish more atheists were unapologetic in their hatred of these things. My gripe with religion is that it is the most nourishing force on earth for these practices.

Church members are being taught what they have forgotten…and that is what Atheists who acheived political power did to believers of all kinds.

Ooooooooooooh, nice and vague. Leaves me nothing to rebut.

But even if I grant this nebulous little attempt at a dig, what can we take from it? Religious leaders have done some wicked shit. Leaders who didn’t believe in god have done some wicked shit. What’s the causal link? It can’t be disbelief in god, because believers have been bad too. However, something they all have in common is that the underpinnings of the ideologies that drove virtually every horrific tyranny in history were steeped in unreasonable beliefs about what would make the world better. Ignorance, lack of reliance on the facts, and unreason were the heart of brutal political landscapes like Maoist China and paved the way for the Crusades. It should be obvious to anybody from this that being reasonable is nothing short of a moral obligation.

This is what allows the atheist to equally condemn horrific leaders whether theistic or not: we can look at their reasoning and condemn them for acting illogically or on poor information. Just as Torquemada was flagrantly irrational, so was Joseph Stalin. We convict both for being unreasonable. Therein lies the difference between Christians and the atheist movement. For us, irrationality is our stated enemy. Are some atheists irrational? Sure, and they’re just as wrong for it as the Christians. We seek a world where being reasonable is a social expectation, not an option.

Conversely, Christianity tells us we must accept things on faith. The message of Christianity is that it is not only ok to embrace the cognitive failure of unreason and accept impossible stories of ancient miracles, but that god will punish us if we don’t. Christians praise each other for believing in things for which they have no evidence and for drawing conclusions from their feelings rather than their intellect. It is hard to fairly convict Torquemada for abiding by the same standards for reasonableness you consider virtuous within your congregation. In this, religion is the force maintaining that the sickness as the cure.

The believer may say that they’ve reached different conclusions about the will of god than faith-driven monsters of the past, but they can’t say that theirs are any more reasonable. In this, it doesn’t matter if your conclusions about what god wishes are different. If they’re no more likely to be true, you’ve lost the power to say that Torquemada was wrong. Merely being different from you is insufficient to make a person wrong, it only makes them different.

Consider the following conversation.

Person A: Terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. I know this because we have video evidence and a long list of other evidences that confirm this fact. Anybody believing something to the contrary is incorrect.
Person B: Terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers on 3/13/1989. I believe this on faith.
Person C: Terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers on 12/2/1958. I believe this on faith.

It does Person B no good to say of Person C “Their belief is not my belief! My faith is different!” Who cares? Yes, their positions are different in their conclusions, but they’re not different in the way that matters: whether or not their position is more likely to be truth. Person B & C are the same in that they’re both wrong and they’re both wrong for the same reasons. That is what should concern us. This is what the atheist is saying of all religious people from Rob Bell to Arnaud Amalric: you’re all wrong and you’re wrong for the same reasons.

Now let’s add a fourth person to the mix.

Person D: Terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. I believe this on faith.

Should Person D get a free pass? No! It is possible for lousy reasoning to land you on the conclusion confirmed as correct through reason and evidence, but that’s not good enough! The truth is important, and if we’re ever going to get people on the same page we need to support methods that actually support one conclusion over another, not the ones that could lead to any conclusion under the sun.

So when a religious person says to me “I support equal rights for all!” I must also examine their reasons. If they believe this for the long list of perfectly sensible reasons available, great! If they believe this because they have faith that it’s god’s will, then I must still criticize them for their endorsement of the same lack of reasoning that allows other people to believe we should not allow equal rights because it is god’s will. Even though the nice Christian shares my conclusion, they are protecting the methodology that keeps its antithesis alive.

The concern over reliability is what separates the atheist movement from religion. We see what corrupted the monsters of the past both atheist and theist, and the atheist movement insists we should all erase those failures from ourselves and from society. On the other hand, Christians continue to embrace the same cognitive errors and insist that doing otherwise is punishable in a pit of fire. Mao showed us that atheists are certainly capable of being irrational (plenty of atheists nowadays do the same). The difference is that we’re the ones saying irrationality is a poison. Religion insists that irrationality is the key to paradise.

Trip you memory and read the classic, Tortured For Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand.

Don’t tell me to read a book. If you got a good argument from the damn book then use it.

If you are up to debate, let us know.

I’m afraid not. I’m simply too scared. You might tell me to read a book or try the moral argument on me, and how would I ever answer that?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • fastlane

    Snark! It’s what’s for breakfast!

    I eagerly await the return of your erudite interlocutor.

  • Peter N

    You make an excellent point. One detail: I think you meant to write that “person D” believes that the planes were flown into the Twin Towers on 9/11/01, not 9/11/11.

    Feel free ~not~ to publish this comment — I just wanted to alert you to (what looks to me like) the typo.

    • JT Eberhard

      Thank you! This is what I get for blogging past my bedtime!

  • Glodson

    I don’t even know where to begin. I read that comment in the previous posting, and I didn’t reply because I didn’t know where to begin there either.

    In some ways, atheism is the conclusion of something larger. Something that I’ve considered more important which you’ve alluded to often in this response. And that is rationalism. I became an atheism due to rationalism. As I embraced rationality more and more, my belief withered. I’m an atheist for the simple reason that I’ve fully embraced rationalism. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. It gives me a great foundation for every other belief I could have.

    So when we look at the world rationally, a belief in god becomes unnecessary. I’m not an atheist because I hate god or Christianity or anything else. I hate religion because of the harm I have seen it do. Not on the large scale, with horrible campaigns of death. That, I’m certain, is more the fault of power and authoritarianism. In that, religion is a mere tool being used to control people. But on a small scale is where we see the evil magnified. The institutionalization of bigotry and hatred is a common theme. Hell, I watched a bit yesterday on youtube about a poor young girl in a coma. Her fucking family thinks that god is causing icons of the Virgin Mary to bleed oil. Watching it drove me to tears. It was heartbreaking. It was also enraging. That was fucking evil. And you know what would be a better fucking miracle? If the poor little girl came out of her coma. Fuck the goddamn statute.

    And here’s another point. I might hate religion, but I cannot hate the religious(in general). My parents are religious, my in-laws are religious. Even my wife is religious. Okay, I think she might be more of a secular catholic, but still. I don’t like their beliefs. But I still love them and want them in my life. I fear their religious beliefs might harm them. I fear that those beliefs might cause them harm. It is amazing that, for the most part, they are intelligent and rational human beings. My mother, and mother-in-law, are people that I would hold up as examples of good Christians. They are loving and compassionate. Both work as nurses for sick children. Hard, hard work. They have had their hearts broken by caring for children who often die(my mother works in the neonatal intensive care unit, and my mother-in-law works for a juvenile oncology unit). Their compassion and love would be there with religion. I fear their religion makes them feel guilt and actually hurts them. So I hate those beliefs for that reason alone.

    It is a tragic thing that people adopt religion. What makes it tragic is that we are brought up in it, inundated with it. It is hard to overcome. Personally, it took me a long time to fully shake off the religion. I am still working to get it out of my head. It is difficult. It takes time. I’ve only recently admitted to myself that I’m an atheist. But, again, being an atheist isn’t what makes me hate religion. Being a rationalist isn’t what makes me hate religion.

    Religion is what makes me hate religion. Fuck, I can deal with a belief in god. I can understand it. I can deal with a belief in the afterlife, I can understand that too. I cannot deal with the horrors that religions inflicts on the believer.

    So atheism doesn’t lead one to hate religion. Religion does that on its own. One thing I would like to address that you didn’t, JT, is this:

    Church members are being taught what they have forgotten…and that is what Atheists who acheived political power did to believers of all kinds.

    What the fuck?! When?! Mao and Stalin? Those are two prominent and powerful assholes who were atheists. And they killed the shit out of everyone. Being an atheist or theist wasn’t required to get the fuck killed out of you under them. And that’s just recently. We can go through the litany of horrors done by almost every religion to, well, everyone. It didn’t matter if you were a believer in a certain religion. You could be killed horrifically for all sorts of reasons. Thanks to religion. Religion as a political tool is potent. And deadly. Burning at the stake, stoning, and other deaths are common. I’ve read theists here that call for bringing stoning back!

    And let’s talk about the persecution of Christians in this country. It doesn’t fucking exist. So let’s talk about the persecution done by Christians in this country. Fuck, I don’t have the time because that’s a website unto itself. In sort: Christianity supported slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, at the very least. Furthermore, as we got further from the Age of Reason, and definitely after the Second Great Awakening, religion became important. It has become okay in this country to turn on atheists. Because we don’t believe, we are anti-American now. I guess we should ignore all the free-thinkers, deists and secularist that wrote the fucking Constitution.

    Most atheists I’ve read up on, and know, don’t want to force you to change your mind. That’s fucking stupid. It doesn’t work. We want you to think. We want you to examine the evidence. We want you to be rational. Maybe you’ll reject your beliefs. Maybe you want. But if we can get you to think, then we are doing our jobs right. I don’t want to make religion illegal. That would be a gross abuse of power. That would fly in the face of what I believe in. I just want to make religion irrelevant.

    Sorry, this is a bit long, but that one post confused and angered me early. And your reply got me started when I couldn’t think of a way to start myself.

  • Drakk

    I want to learn how to verbally eviscerate like you.

  • Keith O’Connor

    Good post. And you’ve hit it on the head: it’s rationality that we seek. It’s scary that Americans have become uncoupled from reason, and the cause is always the same — religion. As Hitch said, it poisons everything. I make fun of religion all the time on my blog. I will never give these people an inch. Keep up the good work!

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Now, now, JT. Help is available.

    Your own rant here produced an ad for online anger management classes – divinely sent, we may be sure, to help with your online anger.

  • kosk11348

    It should be obvious to anybody from this that being reasonable is nothing short of a moral obligation.

    Many atheists tie themselves into knots whenever the subject turns to morality, but I have always believed this statement to be true. One of the things that most turned me off to religious argumentation was the lengths theists would go to avoid certain conclusions. They simply were not arguing in good faith. The goal was never to arrive at the truth as best as we could reason out, but rather to protect certain religious assumptions from disproof at all costs. The intellectual dishonesty of this approach was immediately apparent even to my young mind.

    But dishonesty is unethical, even self-deception. We do have a moral obligation to believe true things. Faith is a moral failing. I have found essay William K. Clifford’s 1877 essay The Ethics of Belief to be the clearest formulation of this principle. If you’ve never read it, I think you would find it insightful.