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Why do some atheists mock religion?

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One question many people have is why do some atheists have to be obnoxious in challenging and/or belittling a person's religious beliefs? Why and what's the point of doing this?

  • Not everyone's beliefs are harmless and benign. Many religions such as Christianity and Islam are responsible for tremendous oppression, prejudice, discrimination and suffering of others. Even if you consider yourself more moderate and liberal, the institution and the doctrine behind which you base your beliefs still espouses a tremendous intolerance for those who believe differently. Even if you don't act on those ideals, you indirectly support them, and in the eyes of many atheists who care about the future of their society, you are part of the problem and it's important for us to want to "reach you" in one way or another. For more information see: Why atheists care about religion.

This takes care of why many atheists want to engage and challenge theists. The second part is why mock or belittle a person's belief?

  • First off, by virtue of the nature of religion, it's virtually impossible to debate this issue in any straightforward manner without potentially "offending" or "belittling" someone's beliefs. To many Christians, merely acknowledging that I don't believe in their god is extremely offensive and belittling to them. Some of us are more or less straightforward in expressing this; and some of us are more or less indifferent to whether or not that bothers believers. We'd never get anywhere in any dialogue if we had to pander to this sensitivity. And let's be real about it. The notion of "blasphemy" has always been used as a weapon to shut down opposing viewpoints and persecute non-believers. These "why do atheists have to be dickheads?" threads are another veiled attempt to suppress atheists. All we're doing is talking - it's not like we're going door to door and dragging people out of their homes that believe in god. You guys need to chill. You're out of line suggesting that we should only be allowed to express our opinion in a way that doesn't threaten your fragile sensibilities.

It's also important to understand that atheists differentiate between treating a person with respect and respecting a person's beliefs, the latter of which is not acceptable to unconditionally demand. Religious belief is a choice of how you wish to act and think. It's not a irrevocable condition like one's gender or skin color and should not be treated with the same discriminatory sensitivity.

Lastly, why be so aggressive or belittling to someone who is a believer?

There are many techniques to try to "reason" and communicate with believers. Some like to reason with them using logic. I personally believe in many cases this isn't terribly effective:

  • Many people believe in god because it gives them a sense of security. Which means in the absence of god they feel insecure. They lack confidence, because believing in god gives them confidence. You have "faith" and that makes you feel good about yourself.

So for many, belief in god is not an intellectual thing; it's an emotional thing. So trying to reason with a theist on an intellectual basis only goes so far.

I think what bothers theists most about those so-called "douchebag atheists" is their unmitigated level of self-confidence in their lack of belief (they call it arrogance, which is extremely ironic considering most religious people believe they're the ones an omnipotent creator favors). Let's be honest. Religious people would prefer all atheists to be wallflowers who respectfully agree to disagree and make no judgment on their beliefs. This way, they aren't threatened by someone demonstrating an equal amount of confidence in the lack of a god as they do in their belief he exists. What this all comes down to is if you've been indoctrinated into believing that there is only "one way", "God's way" then seeing someone else so confident they're right and you're wrong, that they're willing to mock you, your beliefs and god himself, that's a serious shock to their sense of up and down.

Mockery is a very effective technique to bring home an important point. If you see someone willing to say out loud, "Screw you Jesus. If you exist, strike me dead right now.." and they aren't stricken dead.. well, that rocks your world. Most theists would never imagine saying something like that. Yes, it belittles their beliefs and makes a mockery of their religion, but it also makes a very, very strong point: it clearly demonstrates to them, even though they don't want to admit it, that they could be wrong, because their god just let them get away with that, or did he? Or what if he really is a figment of a person's imagination?

Remember the RRS's "Blasphemy Challenge?" Was that an obnoxious and offensive PR campaign? Sure. Was it successful? Tremendously. They got on camera, several hundred people to denounce religion and mock the dogma. That sent a very, very powerful message to the institution that people will no longer be controlled by fear. Theists might not like it, but it was probably more efficient than a thousand people being polite. It's not for everybody, but you have to respect people who will pull something like that. It takes balls, just like it took balls for the guy to throw the first bail of tea into the Boston harbor, or for Rosa Parks to refuse to move to the back of the bus. Atheists are tired of being told they have to "sit in the back of the bus" by pandering to religious peoples emotional sensitivities.

Q: There's a difference between being confident in your position and being an asshole about it.

You're right.

The person who thinks you're being an asshole is projecting their personal insecurity.

Let's put this into perspective. An "asshole" atheist would be say, an atheist that goes door to door and berates people for not rejecting god. Now that might be assholeish behavior. I personally have never seen any atheist do that.

However, an atheist that thinks people who believe are delusional and mildly mentally retarded... that's not assholeish behavior. That's an accurate clinical diagnosis. If you think that's being an asshole, it signifies how insecure and intimidated you are by the truth. Don't blame the atheist.

Do you have evidence or citations for this working on religious people? My experience with people is that they do NOT like being humiliated for their beliefs.

Rejecting religion is a slow, methodical process.

Imagine if you will, that you're with a bunch of friends who want to go skinny dipping, but you are afraid of being naked. You'd never even take your shirt off in front of other people. But in the presence of people who get totally naked, you feel more comfortable going shirtless or swimming in your underwear. That's what the more confrontational atheists do in terms of giving people space to validate their own doubts about religion.

Also, humiliation has been proven to be a time-tested way of weaning people off undesirable behavior. Of course, nobody's going to admit that shame is their main motivation, but we all know it works.

This is analogous to you telling me, "If you were nicer to me about my heroin habit, you might be more effective in getting me to quit." Puh-leaze. I'm trying to do you a favor and you don't even realize it. Don't tell me to play make believe because reality bothers you. I don't care whether you believe in god or not. I don't have a bed post I'm putting notches in every time I de-convert someone. I'm just telling you the way it is. I'm not trying to make friends so I can brainwash them like theists do. I'm telling you, you're addicted to something that is personally destructive. It's up to you to distinguish between the reality of what I'm saying, and your emotional sensitivity to the tone of my voice which is ultimately irrelevant. If you don't get it, it's your problem and no big loss to me. You'll get it eventually.

--Pile 02:28, 30 March 2009 (CDT)


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