The Targets of Atheists

Question from Frank:
Why do atheists always talk about how Christians are fake, but never mention Islam as a really fake religion?

Answer by SmartLX:
Atheists have all the same reasons to deny and oppose Islam as they do Christianity, but they will naturally challenge religion in the form in which it appears in their own community.

The atheists you have the opportunity to read or listen to mostly live in countries with a Christian majority, or at least where the majority of religious people are Christian. Christianity is therefore the religion with the greatest impact on their daily lives, and the religion whose apologetic is the most prominent in the arena of debate. Therefore they most often inspired, provoked and otherwise motivated to discuss and criticise Christianity. In Muslim countries, it’s different.

There is also the fact that in many countries devout Muslims have threatened (and often succeeded, say in Bangladesh) to persecute and even kill critics of Islam. Though unfortunate, it is perfectly reasonable for people to withhold their criticisms of Islam if they believe their safety to be at risk.

The important thing to remember is that most the criticisms of Christianity apply just as well to any other faith, including Islam. The core supernatural claims at the heart of the scripture are unsupported by available evidence. Believers who gain political power in numbers invariably attempt to legislate in favour of their religion, and in particular to enforce religious morality upon non-adherents. People spend vast amounts of time, effort and money doing things which have no purpose except to please an invisible entity for an intangible reward, supposedly withheld until after death.

3 thoughts on “The Targets of Atheists”

  1. Frank – Many atheists do spend time discussing the contradictions and irrational portions of non-Christian religions. The same day your question was posted on this website LX also answered an email regarding Buddhism as it so happens. But as America is a mostly Christian country, and the countries on our continent and even in our hemisphere are mostly Christian, that is the religion that most people know, and so that gets the majority of the discussion time.

    Like most atheists, I find all religions to be silly and baseless. On some of the other websites I frequent, Islam and Judaism do get included in some of the debates. I’ve also tackled Taoism, Hinduism, and even Zoroastrianism (there are actually millions of people that still follow that ancient faith). They are all fair game in my mind.

    I know Christians feel like they are getting picked on, but that’s what happens when you are the big player in town…

  2. “People spend vast amounts of time, effort and money doing things which have no purpose except to please an invisible entity for an intangible reward, supposedly withheld until after death.”

    A perfect example of a straw man argument. If you are going to criticise Christianity, then at least target what it actually claims, and not what you think it claims! The benefits of belief in God are as much for this life as the life to come. That is indisputably the teaching of the Bible, as well as the experience of believers (at least, my experience, anyway!). And it really is astounding that you think a life of love, mercy and compassion has “no purpose” (after all, these are the actions which flow – or ought to flow – from authentic faith in God).

    As for “pleasing an invisible entity” – well, absolutely everybody does that, atheists included. It’s called one’s own consciousness, or self. My consciousness, as well as yours, is not an empirical entity. It may be expressed through physical apparatus, but it is, in itself, intangible and invisible. The only difference between atheists and theists, is that the latter believe that our consciousness (or spirit) is part of an objective reality, whereas, irrationally, atheists deny that, and, in effect, believe that that which is most fundamental to human existence is merely an emergent property (really a kind of illusion) of material reactions.

    It seems rather ironic that an atheist should criticise theists for supposedly doing “things which have no purpose” – as if atheism has any meaning or purpose! If we really are nothing but bundles of chemicals somehow (no one knows how) thrown together by a totally mindless, materialistic universe, then there is clearly no ultimate purpose or meaning to anything. And if you should argue that we have to create our own meaning, then you have absolutely no grounds to criticise any other worldview, if you really think about it!

    This is another example of the self-refuting nature of atheism, and, of course, any claim which is self-refuting is, by definition, false. No greater evidence can be adduced against any claim than that of self-refutation.

    1. Welcome back, Allistair.

      I didn’t say everything Christians and Muslims do has no purpose outside of pleasing the deity and serving the religion, only that there are such actions: worship, prayer, fasting (and other unnecessary forebearance), tithing, proselytising and everything else done for your god and not your fellow man.

      No one doubts the existence of consciousness, regardless of its origin, because each person experiences it for themselves. It is not just visible but undeniable in its presence. That’s streets ahead of any deity.

      The meaning or purpose of an action does not have to be “ultimate”. It can simply work towards a goal, any goal. That said, there are many goals which are completely unproductive in practical terms (e.g. getting in one more game of Solitaire before starting work) and we try to avoid spending too much effort on those. Pleasing a deity that isn’t really there would be one of these unproductive goals, so belief or nonbelief in the deity makes a big difference: I think your big goal is unproductive even though you think it’s the most worthwhile goal there is.

      I never criticise a worldview for being meaningless because meaning is subjective, as described above. I criticise worldviews for being based on incredible claims for which there is no good evidence.

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