Why so aggressive?

Question from Julain:
I have found myself more Gnostic than anything, and I want to ask about a few things.
Why are atheists so aggressive and nitpicky? All of the staunch atheists I’ve met have to make a point about how right they are, then start asking about how their god is real, a dumb question really. So, back to the question, what makes atheists so self-righteous and dogmatic?

The other question I have is simple: Why are staunch atheists so scornful of religion? I, personally, am 100% for meeting up and reminding people to love their fellow man/not tear out neighbor john’s esophagus. You get so dogmatic, so evangelical, as a group, all about something that can not be proven by science. It is not a simple thing we can find, it is transcendent. It was said that “God is dead” for a number of reasons, one of them being that he is no longer objectively provable. On the flipside, we can not disprove him either. I am not saying to believe one way or another. The entire argument is meaningless, though, and that is the important thing- that these people get some kind of sensual, almost erotic joy in a small, meaningless victory that has not changed the world around them.

Why is atheism uniting as a movement? I feel that such a move could be dangerous to the ideas ‘defended’ by it. Skepticism is not going to be found in a large group, that is when you start becoming a unified force instead, with unified ideas. That is the opposite of skepticism.

My final question is why you guys talk about “science” like it is a bible. The thing that keeps this amorphous, shifting mass of ideas moving is the constant search for understanding, knowing that we can always be wrong. Many things are not such. Evolution? Definite, real, we have proof. Red Queen hypothesis? Plausible view of evolution, really more like frame of reference. Those are directly observable. However, then you start getting to physics and cosmology, or almost anything that involves space. In general, we know almost nothing. The average person just flaunts ‘the big bang’ while only knowing the basic framework from wikipedia or a textbook. In the end, we know so little, it is best to reserve judgement.

I say with confidence that I know little, and that I know not what lies beyond the pale of death. Past that? Absolutely nothing.

Answer by SmartLX:
If what you’ve said is true then it’s not true about all the staunch atheists you’ve met, it’s just true about all the staunch atheists who’ve announced themselves to you. Like any group of people, atheists have some among them who can’t entertain the possibility that they might be wrong or allow others to differ in peace, and this can make them abrasive when on the subject. Others, like my father for one, mention it once every few years if at all, and avoid all discussion of it with believers because they know it can cause an argument. In short, you can be a dick about anything and that includes atheism, but when atheists aren’t being dicks you might not even identify them. Engaging people constructively on an emotionally charged subject like faith when you think it’s all unjustified is bloody hard, especially in person.

Many atheists are also anti-theistic, or opposed to religious belief in general, for three reasons. Firstly, it does appear to be misguided to atheists or at least likely to be wrong, and it’s usually in everyone’s interest for people to live their lives according to what’s actually true. Secondly, religious belief can cause great harm in some circumstances (the regular news stories about parents failing to pray away their children’s illnesses are a ready example) while its mental and social benefits can come from other sources instead, so the cost-benefit analysis goes badly for it. Finally, widespread belief makes non-believers a minority, and sometimes a persecuted minority depending on where they are. (I’m not going to Bangladesh in a hurry.)

Many atheists united behind a fresh movement around 2006 for these same reasons, when a group of books on the subject came out together and acted as a catalyst. (New Atheism was a terrible name for it, but there it is.) I disagree that skepticism can’t function in large groups, because if the people question each other then every idea must prove itself. Managing a large group of atheists has been compared to herding cats, so they’re an ideal demographic to put this into practice.

It is indeed folly to dogmatise science, so we simply try not to. If evidence for something is in place, we act and speak with confidence in its reality. If not then we reserve judgement, and that should include the possibility of a god or its influence. But not knowing for sure does not mean all possibilities have equal probabilities, and the concept of a god is so far beyond anything we’ve observed that positing it as an explanation for anything does not make for a useful hypothesis, or an appealing one unless you’re desperate for a simple answer. It raises more questions than it answers anyway.

4 thoughts on “Why so aggressive?”

  1. I am what some might consider (at-least my family members do, for sure) an aggressive atheist.
    Speaking for myself, I usually reserve the aggression only for family and sometimes close friends (quite paradoxically). This is because it hurts me most when people I care for make bad decisions due to silly beliefs … and they do take a lot of small bad decisions on a daily basis due to a vague belief in god and such stuff. Some of these bad decisions can (and sometimes do) accumulate up to a disaster of sorts.

    When I argue out my stance live with theists other than my family (I usually avoid it), I am less aggressive. Much less. I could care less whether the other person wants to re-look his/ her beliefs based on my discussions with him/ her. Very few people re-look their beliefs no matter how compelling the argument(s) – especially verbal arguments. People tend to re-look (on the sly/ when they are alone) based more on written material than live debates. So on live discussions on the topic of religion with acquaintances or strangers, I keep my peace and hope the time will pass by quickly. The weather’s a much more fruitful topic to discuss, actually.

    I started writing about my thoughts on atheism online in order to get some clarity of my own as well. Writing makes things wonderfully clearer.
    On online forums it can sometimes get exasperating repeating the same arguments to the same tired old questions from theists, and a flash of irritation may now and then seep through one’s answers.

    Basic published texts of science (Physics, Chem, Math)- say science upto the 1930s – even 40s lay down models of natural law that are quite well defined and clear/ serve the purpose for most things terrestrial.
    Latest and ongoing research in medical science, psychology etc. explain a lot about human beings.
    I think one can put one’s “faith” in this type of established science (which is more or less fact), even dogmatically, for practical purposes. Theists tend not to do even that (the “my illness will be cured by God’s grace” types).
    I’d rather be selectively dogmatic about established science and technology (which itself has a lot going for it … look at the marvels of the modern day world around us … even the internet for e.g. – such an amazing thing this) than hold on to the notion that “we know very little”.
    There’s a lot of concrete stuff to know – enough to take one’s whole lifetime knowing it. One should reserve knowing/ acknowledging woolly stuff till one has a sufficient grasp of the concrete, I think.

  2. [Why are atheists so aggressive and nitpicky?]

    The devil, as they say, is in the details. I’ve never seen a pro-believer argument that didn’t succumb to scrutiny when you really get into the entire claim. In many cases that includes detailed scientific data or logical discussion which directly refutes the religious claim.

    As for “aggressive”, it’s hard to say what you mean by that exactly. If you mean “determined” perhaps, then that is easy to explain. As I stated above, there is no pro-believer argument that can stand to scrutiny. So I think many atheists who take the time to engage people in discussion feel that they can completely justify and explain their stance on whatever topic is at hand.

    [Why are staunch atheists so scornful of religion?]

    Religion promotes the rejection of critical thinking skills, and erodes many people’s ability to think for themselves. People often use it as justification (wrongly) for their abuse, rejection, or unfair treatment of other human beings.

    For all the “good” things that religion does, ask yourself why we need a religion in order to do them. Do we need religion to be nice to others? To feed the hungry and cure the sick? Do we need religion to tell us that society works better if we all get along? No, we don’t need religion for that.

    Religion, to be blunt, is the lazy way out. Why go help someone when you can just “pray” for them. Why get over prejudices you learned from your parents when you can just say “you’re a sinner”. Why learn things about the universe that you don’t understand when you can just say “god did it”. It’s a cop out and a mental crutch, and it doesn’t help our species out.

    [Why is atheism uniting as a movement?]

    It’s not. I know some have made that attempt, but in reality the only thing common among atheists is that they call themselves atheists. And even that word has different meanings to different people.

    [My final question is why you guys talk about “science” like it is a bible.]

    Science is not absolute. As I like to say, science is a path, not a destination. It’s the most useful and accurate tool we’ve developed to answer questions about things. It can and does make mistakes, in no small part because imperfect humans are the ones using it. The reason it may sound like a bible is that, compared to religion, it is. Religion is totally baseless, with only speculation and conjecture to support its claims. Let me be precise: There is exactly zero evidence or empirical data for any supernatural claim made by humans since humans were able to make them, including all the various god creatures we’ve come up with. Science cannot even proceed without data and evidence. It is almost literally the exact opposite of religion. So while science isn’t perfect and it is never absolute, it can still tell us a lot about a lot of things with the backing of information that any person on this planet, at any time, can verify themself. Religion can’t and doesn’t offer that.

  3. Because we…as a species can no longer be polite…we are running out of time,if things continue the way they are humans will extinct themselves,aswell as all of Earth life…and the planet itself will be and is being destroyed…it is only a matter of time before these religious nitwitts get a nuke…

  4. …and religion stagnates the species…we need more scientific and medical research…we need more people thinking critically and solving problems instead of wishing for a fix from invisible entities…religion causes more harm than good,has since it’s conception…

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