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Atheism

To be very clear, when I say "atheist" I mean US atheist, and when I say "Christianity" I mean the American version. There are a number of significantly different versions of Christianity and atheism in the world, and sometimes they need to be discussed separately. I'll come back to this at the end.

I'll start with a quick outline of my argument, to make it easier to follow:

- Christianity is somewhat mystical.
- Atheists are mystical too. It's an aspect of our society.
- People say that atheists are atheists because God is a mystical idea, but this is rarely the real reason (as most atheists still are mystics anyway).
- Christian values are largely good.
- Atheists are not simply non-religious, they oppose religion. In the US, this mostly means opposing Christianity.
- So (most) atheists are opposing something largely good for little reason.
- Doing so is wrong. We should praise good things, and certainly never oppose them.

Christianity is somewhat mystical

Err, well, they believe in God, some believe in creationism, and there's heaven too. Given my audience, I don't think I need to go into any detail here. So moving on...

Atheists are mystical too. It's an aspect of our society.

So we were driving along in New Mexico, and [an atheist] turns to me and comments, about the landscape, that Mother Nature used a big scalpel. And then goes on to describe various details of the terrain. And I sit quietly and imagine driving with a Christian, who says God used a big scalpel, and I really don't see the difference. They seem equally mystical to me.

You may say talking about mother nature is just an expression. But often so is using God! Often these people probably aren't thinking too much about what they are saying, and don't really mean it literally. This is a good defense, but it applies to atheists and Christians equally.

If you watch much modern-genre anime, you may observe the characters being highly superstitious (by US standards). It's portrayed as generally accepted (often brought up; never really questioned). Fortune tellers are also quite common and are taken seriously. I take from this that US culture is actually not that bad on mysticism. I don't believe I know anyone very superstitious.

The US has some silly things like psychic hotlines (which apparently make money). I don't know any reason to think Christians are more likely to believe in psychics, though. The Bible doesn't say to believe in them, and actually the fairly common excuse that they are communing with spirits is distinctly non-Christian (one God, says Christianity).

People say that atheists are atheists because God is a mystical idea, but this is rarely the real reason (as most atheists still are mystics anyway).

The common claim is that people usually reject Christianity because they reject mysticism. This is not borne out by the many spiritual atheists, agnostics, various oddball religions like Wicca, Satanism, Paganism, eastern religions with reincarnation, karma, or whatever, etc etc etc And especially not borne out by my point above about atheists mostly being just as mystical.

And also, there are plenty of Christians who dislike mysticism, but somehow don't see their religion that way. In other words, most people who reject mysticism manage to reconcile this rejection with their religion.

So, in the vast majority of cases, I believe we must look for some other reasons for the rejection of Christianity.

Christian values are largely good.

Certain Christian hangups get a lot of attention. Such as opposing abortion or homophobia. Some people then conclude that Christianity is a silly, out-dated idea that has begun to cause more harm than good (if they think it was ever good -- some think people just didn't know better before, and ought to now).

But, well, here's a simple argument:

- The USA is very good. It fights for freedom, solves problems well (as evidenced by its great successes at science, at producing stuff to make life better, at living peacefully), and doesn't listen to the specious authority of the majority of countries of the world (you know, the ones always passing UN resolutions about how evil the Jews are Israel is).
- The USA also doesn't go in for appeasement (something most of Europe apparently didn't figure out with Hitler), or pacifism. Self-defense is important.
- So, how do we explain the US being good? Well, it has to be made up of good people. Which means people with highly moral values.
- Atheism is more popular in Europe, thus demonstrating we do not get our good values from atheism. (Not to mention that not believing in God isn't a value system).
- On the other hand, the US is full of, surprise surprise, Christians. The US represents Christian values. Our current President is even open and explicit about this, and willing to mention God in his speeches.
- Therefore, as the US is very good, and as its policies are mostly based on Christian values, we must conclude there is something very good in Christianity.

To try to see the difference, imagine saying each of the following things to a crowd of atheists or a crowd of Christians, and imagine the reactions you would get.

"There is Evil in the world, and we must fight it, not pretend it's only a difference of culture. Some things are always and everywhere Evil, such as to oppress women or murder innocents."

"Certain things, like freedom and democracy, are Good. They are not for some people. They are not a matter of taste. Some people believe that Arabs or Muslims can't handle democracy. I say God made all people, not just white people, to want freedom, and to flourish with it."

"The Jews in Israel are on the side of Right, and we will stand with them, whatever Evil may come. Their enemies, who preach death every Friday, and dance in the street with joy at each terrorist atrocity, are our enemies too."

Atheists are not simply non-religious, they oppose religion. In the US, this mostly means opposing Christianity.

More (proportionally) atheists than Christians becomes environmentalists. More become socialists. More feel solidarity with Palestinian suicide murderers. More are willing to overlook the suffering caused by tyrants in the Islamic world. More are so committed to causes like getting rid of DDT that they will overlook the millions of people their policy kills.

This is not a matter of being factually confused. There is nothing in atheism that causes people to read less, or choose worse sources to read. Rather, this is a moral issue. And specifically, it shows moral inferiority by atheists. They read more (on average, I expect) but still tend to come out with worse views. This means they twist and distort facts to conform to a bad view of the world.

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Christianity is not really about there being one God, but rather about there being one morality. Most atheists throw this out, and become, at least explicitly, amoral or a moral relativist. They can no longer speak in the "simplistic" language of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, because they see those as religious concepts (and mystical, usually). And so they flounder around with very silly psuedo-values like "hurting nature is wrong" (Why? Unknown. And you thought religions were lite on justifications.) Or mechanical values like to reduce the amount of suffering in the world, with suffering defined as hunger, disease, injuries, and length of work day. But such an analysis will always be blind to, for example, who is right in a conflict. It will just side with whichever side got hurt more (i.e., was less successful). Which is usually the side in the wrong (bad people tend to be less successful).

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In the distant future, the superstitions of today will be gone. There will be no psychic hotlines. A TV show about speaking to the dead would flop, unless shown on the history channel. There will be no religions. No one will believe in God. But so too will there be no atheists. Because once there are no religions to oppose, it will be a meaningless thing to be. Just like today being an a-leprechaunist (someone who believes there are no leprechauns) is absurd.

And furthermore, why be an atheist even today? Why care? Why not just live your life without believing in God? Why does it matter to you if other people are theists? Well, there are lots of reasons, but they all involve things like theism hurting you, not getting along well with Christians, rebelling against Christianity, or a strong desire to convert people to your worldview. (The last is bad because, while it's great to take your own ideas seriously, and wish to help people, we must keep in mind that we may be wrong, and thus not force our ideas on others. Though it's not very bad. At least it indicates a belief in one objective morality.)

So to sum up, people mostly become atheists because they oppose Christianity, mostly identify themselves as atheists because they oppose Christianity, and would identify themselves as non-religious and shrug and not care if this wasn't true.

So (most) atheists are opposing something largely good for little reason.

Not much to say here, expect that opposing good things is terrible, and even if something good has flaws, it still shouldn't be opposed, only criticised in hopes of improving it. And it can still be identified with, for the great good it has.

Doing so is wrong. We should praise good things, and certainly never oppose them.

To conclude, I want to give a short, different version of my argument, that acknowledges Christianity is different in other places.

- The US is good
- Atheists tend to oppose whatever religion they are around, or were former members of.
- So atheists in Pakistan would mostly be pro-American, because their atheism is to oppose the religion there, not here.
- Atheists in the US tend to be less patriotic and, well, less American.
- So opposing American Christianity tends to make people here worse.
- Now, can we conclude that because opposing something makes people worse, the thing is good? Well, logically, we cannot deduce it. There could be some other factor we don't know about. However, American Christianity being good would explain why people opposing it become worse. So, unless someone can think of a persuasive rival explanation, we have a very strong argument.


Elliot Temple on April 19, 2004

Comments (3)

ATM, I think the ideal is for people to have been brought up in a Judaeo-Christian culture, rejecting the mystical bit but not the morality bit.



And it's important for parents to find ways of helping their children gain moral understanding without condemning them to years of Sunday School and church services.


emma at 2:43 AM on April 21, 2004 | #916

Athiesm is not about anything. It is not about morality. It is simply a lack of religion. Look up your dictionary. It is not against Christianity or any other religion. I have many good friends who are Christian (who are also tolerant). You really are displaying your arrogance with the other comments by the way. I doubt very much if you have really looked into what you call "American Atheism" as I also have American friends who are Atheist and are nothing like what you describe. You are totally misrepresenting the truth. Ask an atheist if you don't believe me.


Athiest European at 8:12 AM on May 10, 2004 | #917

alright, can you tell me what the argument about displaying the 10 commandments in courthouses is about? is it between rival sects of Christianity? or what?


Elliot at 2:01 PM on May 10, 2004 | #918

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)