If there are a thousand different gods most people would be an atheist to 999 or 1,000 of them. People only hate atheists who disbelieve in their god, and they never think about themselves being an atheist to other people’s gods.
Which leads me to believe that the dislike of atheists is not about disbelieving in a god, but hating people who don’t agree with you. Most people who are insecure in their beliefs join groups of like minded people. This reinforces their beliefs and makes them feel more secure. The most insecure people will spend all their time trying to convert other people to believe the same way they do because it strengthens their view on reality. It’s a mechanism for maintain sanity.
For these insecure folk encountering people who disbelieve what they believe hurts their confidence and insults them personally. But they do not think about how their own disbeliefs hurts other people. People who are riled the most by meeting an atheist, are often just as riled at meeting someone from a different political party, or even meeting a fan of another football team.
Few people are happy to believe what they believe and not be bothered at all by what other people believe.
Among Jews, Christians and Muslims who claim to worship the same exact god, there is no agreement and a lot of lethal animosity. Which again makes me think it’s not about the deity but the sensitivity of believers. If you asked the followers of the god of Abraham about the gods of Greece, Rome, Persia, India, China, or all the religions of the Americas and Africa what they think of those gods and they will flatly reject them all as superstitious nonsense in the same way as Dawkins or Hitchens dismiss their god. They think nothing of being atheists to other people’s god, yet they puff themselves up about their own hatred of atheists.
What we really hate are people who disagree with us. The trouble is some people hate this more than others. Some people want to wipe out everyone who disagrees with their beliefs, or at least seek to convert the unbelievers. It’s like that Paster Mike Stahl who wanted to create a national registry for atheists patterned on the registry for sex offenders. Of course even that isn’t as severe as in some Muslim countries where they just kill the atheists or anyone that they think insults their god or prophet.
Why do they feel the need to do this? If their god is all powerful can’t he handle unbelievers in his own way? Like I said, it has nothing to do with gods. It’s all about hating people who challenge your beliefs, no matter what they are. In some cultures disrespect is a reason to fight or kill.
For the faithful, the strength of hating unbelievers is directly proportional to their own insecurities.
The problem is we don’t all think alike, and on some level we’re all atheists to other people’s beliefs. We need a system to protect everyone from this war of beliefs. That’s why the founders of the United States created the concept of separation of church and state. And it’s why we don’t want Rick Perry and other political evangelicals leading a New Apostolic Reformation in the 2012 Presidential campaign.
These apostolic and prophetic folk are so insecure in their beliefs that they want to take dominion over the government of the United States, and if you disagree with them you’re an atheist. This is pretty scary. It’s just as scary to me if absolute atheists wanted to take over the government and outlaw religion. Not all atheists are alike, and neither are all religious folk. Us people in the middle have to always fear the extremes at both ends.
Citizens in the middle feel everyone should have their own beliefs and keep religion out of politics, whether we’re religious or not. The trouble is if one extreme or the other tries to take control it will force everyone to take sides in a civil war of beliefs. Do you really want that? Even if you’re very religious, will you believe in the same way as the New Apostolic Reformation believers?
Like I said, atheism isn’t always about god, and sometimes believers in god will become atheists to other believers.
The solution to the problem is simple. Never vote for anyone who campaigns on a religious agenda. No matter how religious you are, you actually do want the government to be impartial and atheistic to all religions, otherwise it can’t maintain the concept of freedom of religion.
JWH – 9/5/11
6 thoughts on “You Are An Atheist”
Jim, when Christians ask me if I ever worry about going to Hell – literally – I ask them if they’re ever worried about going to the Islamic Hell, if they don’t kneel towards Mecca and pray to Allah five times a day.
Of course, it never occurred to them to worry about Islam’s Hell, and they can dismiss it without the slightest effort. But they usually seem to have a hard time understanding that I view their own religion the same way. I always think that’s kind of funny.
As you say, not all Christians want to force their own beliefs on the rest of us. But even then, Christians usually don’t find the idea as scary when the belief is their own. That’s why, in America, Sharia law makes a far better bogeyman – as laughable as that risk might seem to those of us who are rational – than Christian Dominionists, who are a far greater threat.
I’m like believers in one way, though: I want to persuade others to my way of thinking. That’s not because I’m insecure, but because I think there’s real harm in faith-based thinking (and real value in evidence-based thinking).
Of course, I strongly support freedom of religion and the complete separation of church and state. I’ll fight for anyone’s right to believe as they wish, even if I disagree with them. A government that was “officially atheist” would be as abhorrent to me as one that was officially Muslim or officially Christian.
But I’m an active participant in the marketplace of ideas. I think that’s a good thing. Persuasion is the only way to progress, isn’t it? (But I won’t ever go door-to-door as an atheist missionary. Heh, heh. I’m not quite to that point, not yet.)
Nice post, Jim! You make some very good points.
Of course this post was inspired by your posts.
And the Christian Dominionists don’t realize they want to create a Christian Sharia of their own, which is just as scary to us as they fear a Muslim Sharia. They don’t seem to realize that Christians that seek to make the U.S. government Christian is the same impulse Muslims have to make their governments Islamic.
Another thing to mention. As the extremists become more extreme, they will force the middle and moderates to react more extremely, and cause the opposite side to go to even further extremes.
The conservatives hated Clinton and Gore. Then the liberals hated Bush more. Now the conservatives are inflamed with the hatred for Obama. If someone like Rick Perry is elected I can’t imagine how the left will react, but it won’t be good.
Hmm,… I don’t think I agree with that, Jim. For one thing, as the Republicans have moved right, so have the Democrats. We really haven’t seen what you’re suggesting. Indeed, progressives are marginalized even in the Democratic Party.
And second, liberals didn’t start out hating Bush. Indeed, he was considered to be a nice guy, if rather a light-weight. Remember that pledge to be a “compassionate conservative”? Some liberals may have poked fun at him, but we were pretty much all wishing him the best.
It was his actions that caused such an intense dislike. I got absolutely furious with him, myself. But it took awhile. I certainly didn’t start out that way.
Rick Perry is a little different. But this is a guy who started his presidential campaign with a prayer rally of Christian fundamentalists (Dominionists, actually). He’s claimed that global warming is a hoax created by scientists for financial gain, and he wants schools to teach creationism. He wants to end both Social Security and Medicare. We might have laughed at Bush, but we already know that this guy is scary as hell.
No, I have to disagree with you completely about this. It isn’t a matter of “both sides” behaving badly. Liberals have bent over backward trying to get along with the right-wing. And despite the excesses of the Clinton years, we gave Bush a real chance.
“If there are a thousand different gods most people would be an atheist to 999 or 1,000 of them”
An atheist, by definition, doesn’t believe in any gods at all.
That’s true, but if you follow one god and deny all the others, you are an atheist to those gods for all intents.