Monday, March 09, 2015

Are Atheists Hypocrites?

This Conservapedia article has a lot of inflammatory content and I do not by any stretch of the imagination agree with all of it. Still, I offer it to generate some discussion.

56 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Thanks for the link, Victor! Loved the following passage, especially the final 2 sentences:

An obsession is when something or someone dominates a person’s mind. So what else can it be called when so many atheists spend large amounts of time and effort in Christian venues such as message boards and blogs, arguing and mocking incessantly? Who else spends more time on what they don’t believe than what they do believe? If all unprovable beliefs are the same, why don’t atheists put forth the same effort to combat belief in the tooth fairy or pink unicorns on Mars?

im-skeptical said...

Thanks for that link. I needed a good laugh. Conservapedia's articles are patently ridiculous. Take, for example, the claim (in this article) that atheists are racist because they don't evangelize in Africa as much as Christians do. I guess we must hate our own races and ethnic groups as well.

It's a shame that Victor couldn't manage to come up with a source that would be more worthy of serious discussion.

im-skeptical said...

Oh, by the way, Bob, belief in the tooth fairy is something that most of us grow out of. We don't have to worry about people trying to rule the lives of others by forcing their tooth fairy beliefs upon us.

Chris said...

ims,

For what it's worth, that Conservapedia's claim is, indeed, a reach.

However, the charge of racism stems from the combination of the lack of atheist evangelization in Africa AND low atheist charity for people of African descent in the West.

Do atheists hate black people? It must be their constant God-thanking, eh?

im-skeptical said...

Chris,

Despite the fact that the author of this article can't manage to write a coherent paragraph, these are the statements in the relevant section that support the contention of atheist racism:

1. "Historically, there has been a lack of atheist outreach to minority communities in the Western World and a lack of atheist evangelism in Africa and Latin America."
- Atheists don't evangelize. Christians do. This has nothing to do with racism.

2. "storefront churches provide assistance to local residents including women and this partly explains the dearth of Hispanic and African-American women atheists in America."
- There are various means of providing assistance within local communities. I think you'll find that there are secular ones as well.

3. "Atheists give less to charity than Christians."
- That's debatable, and definitely not true if you exclude religious people giving to their own religious organizations (as required, coerced, or otherwise "encouraged" by those institutions). But this has nothing to do with racism.

4. "atheists often get prickly when the subject of evolutionary racism is brought up."
- I don't think so. This is a myth that theists love to perpetuate.

Now here are some actual facts regarding the relationship between racism and religion:

Religious people tend to be more racist.
Racism lives under the cover of religious freedom.
“as a broad generalization, the more religious an individual is, the more prejudiced that person is.”
American militias and "patriots" combine white supremacy with a strong religious bent.

B. Prokop said...

Re: the section on Leonid Brezhnev.

I recall clearly watching Brezhnev's funeral live at the National Security Agency, and all of us gasping as his widow leaned over his coffin and made the Orthodox Sign of the Cross over her husband's body. What the article didn't mention was that a fair number of people in the crowd followed her example and quietly crossed themselves as the coffin was lowered into the ground.

Lesson: Even when it appears triumphant, atheism's victories are transitory and paper-thin, resting on a foundation of sand.

im-skeptical said...

Lesson for Bob:

Atheism is NOT a prerequisite for communism. Communists are closet theists.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor,

I do not by any stretch of the imagination agree with all of it.

Which claims / arguments / statements in that article do YOU agree with?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

B Prokop,

I loved the final 2 sentences also, but probably for a very different reason.

Who else spends more time on what they don’t believe than what they do believe? If all unprovable beliefs are the same, why don’t atheists put forth the same effort to combat belief in the tooth fairy or pink unicorns on Mars?

A moment's reflection reveals that there is no "culture war" over "belief in the tooth fairy or pink unicorns on Mars." Those beliefs have zero influence on legislation, public school curriculum, how a-fairyists (sp?) or a-unicornists are viewed by others, etc. If the roles were reversed and most of humanity were unicornists, not theists, I'm pretty sure this world's atheists would be as active in their a-unicornism as they are about atheism in the actual world.

Papalinton said...

"Atheism is NOT a prerequisite for communism. Communists are closet theists."

Exactly. When the Russian revolution began all the christians converted to Communism. When Communism fell over in the 1990s all the Communists converted back to christianity like a grub-cocoon-moth-back to grub life cycle.

One classic example. The President Vlad Putin. One of the most senior apparatchics in the top echelons of the KGB, the feared government instrumentality that exemplified everything of what it was to be a communist, now sports the biggest cross on his bare and hairless chest that he could get his hands on. What an effortless transition, from KGB Communist to pious Christian. Communist segues into christian like a hand-in-glove fit. Couple this with the incestuous relationship with Russian Orthodox's Patriarch Kirill one could say it is a MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN.

Catholics will believe any BS when it comes to defending their particular brand of christian BS. The logic circuits in christian brains have long been frazzled by decades of indoctrination and inculcation. The hypocrisy of it all.

Victor Reppert said...

Jeff: Let me begin with a disagreement. When atheists say that they can be good without God, it begs the question to appeal to moral items that Christians and atheists can reasonably be expected to disagree with. Atheists typically hold a more liberal view of sex behavior than conservative Christians, therefore to say that atheists are hypocritical in their claim to be good without God begs the question if we point to the fact that they don't practice Christian sexual morality.

On the other hand, it seems to me that atheists are rather slow to spell out what sexual morality they do hold if they don't think sex has to be restricted to heterosexual marriage. I would like to, for example see atheists address the question of whether it is ever morally justified to lie to someone in order to persuade them to have sex with you, which is what a LOT of people do who take a more liberal view of sex behavior.

im-skeptical said...

"I would like to, for example see atheists address the question of whether it is ever morally justified to lie to someone in order to persuade them to have sex with you, which is what a LOT of people do who take a more liberal view of sex behavior."

Any evidence for that, Victor? Sounds like yet another case of "My dad can beat up your dad - neener neener neener."

Victor Reppert said...

I didn't say it followed from a liberal view. But I have heard people talk about what they did in order to get into someone's bed, and they often admitted to lying.

im-skeptical said...

So you "heard people talk about what they did in order to get into someone's bed, and they often admitted to lying." Do you talk to atheists but not theists about their sexual habits, or is it that theists are less likely to admit something like that? I don't believe it for a second, unless you can show me some real evidence.

Victor Reppert said...

You can be a theist and take the more liberal position, so it's not a atheism-theism issue. It is just that when people decide to reject religious moral codes about sex, they often don't replace it with a real substituted ethical code.

im-skeptical said...

I still don't believe it. Show me your evidence.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor, that is interesting. But can I get an answer to my question?

B. Prokop said...

To get back to the question that heads up this discussion ("Are atheists hypocrites?"), I'll have to answer that only some of them are. "Atheists" seem to fall into one of three broad categories:

1. The intellectually lazy or apathetic. (I have a close relative who, although he declares himself to be an atheist, is in actually nothing whatsoever. He has never given the question a moment's serious thought, and seems unlikely to ever do so.)

2. The muddleheaded. This includes people who are apparently sincere in their belief that there is no God, but fail to realize that their reasons for so believing are either mistaken or just plain incoherent. (You can also throw into this batch people who espouse atheism for cultural or emotional reasons, or who were brought up to think that way.) Atheists of this category are not necessarily hypocrites per se, but simply wrong.

3. The gnus. These are by and large people who know damn well that they full of crap, yet obstinately refuse to admit their error. These are the true hypocrites. Dig down deep enough, and you'll inevitably find some quite a-rational motive behind their supposed atheism, be it fear, peer pressure, "going with the flow", unwillingness to give up some private sin, desire to be "hip", or even the profit motive.

This is analogous to the Catholic Church's definition of heretic, which is a person who, knowing the Church's teaching on a particular matter to be the Truth, nevertheless by a conscious act of will, decides to believe (and act) otherwise. You can't be a heretic without choosing to be so. This is why Dante placed the heretics amongst the sinners of lower hell, the hell of willed evil (such as fraud or treachery), rather than in upper hell, the hell of the sins of appetite (such as lust, gluttony, or wrath). Likewise, you can't be a hypocritical atheist unless you know atheism to be false, yet still espouse it.

im-skeptical said...

I hear this idea fairly often: that atheists know they are wrong but persist with their non-belief anyway. I just don't understand it. Why would anyone do that?

You can rule out peer pressure and "going with the flow" right away, since (at least in my experience) most atheists are bucking the majority, and often even find it necessary to hide their non-belief from family, acquaintances, and employers. As for profit motive, I can think of very few cases where being an atheist would be advantageous.

That leaves the unwillingness to give up a sin. But that makes no sense at all. If you know that there is a God and you are sinning, it does no good to call yourself an atheist. You wouldn't be escaping punishment, and actually you would only be making things worse. In other words, this would be an incredibly stupid choice.

Now, before you nod your head in enthusiastic agreement with that, it might be wise to consider another possibility. Maybe, just maybe, an atheist actually has a reasonable case. Maybe his non-belief is justified by evidence and logic.

Bob, if you could muster the intellectual fortitude to admit that there is some small possibility that your hostility toward atheists could be misplaced, then we could begin to have an honest discussion about hypocrisy.

msgrx said...

IS:

"We don't have to worry about people trying to rule the lives of others by forcing their tooth fairy beliefs upon us."

Who's this "we" who's "worrying", Skeptical? Surely not atheists, since (as we're all sick to death of hearing) atheism is a mere lack of belief in God and doesn't bring any positive beliefs in with it. But "You shouldn't try and force your [religious/tooth fairy/whatever] beliefs on others" is itself a positive belief. Therefore we can't assume that atheists would sign up to this belief, and hence we can't speak for atheists as a whole on this topic.

PL:

"Exactly. When the Russian revolution began all the christians converted to Communism."

Then why were there so many believers left for them to send to the gulags?

msgrx said...

B. Prokop:

Given that atheism, or at least the scientistic, materialist version which is most common in the modern West, has no room for moral standards as those are generally understood, one might say that any such atheist who does good (except for motives of self-interest) is in fact being a hypocrite, albeit in a good way. Or, to put it another way, the only good atheist is a bad one.


Skep (again):

I don't think we can rule out "going with the flow" so easily. In some circles, atheism (or at least a sort of wishy-washy agnosticism that is in practice indistinguishable from atheism) is assumed as the default, so yes, being an atheist in such an environment would indeed be going with the flow. Not to mention all that "right side of history" rhetoric the gnus love to trot out -- what's the flow of your small-minded, credulous neighbours compared to that of History itself?

"That leaves the unwillingness to give up a sin. But that makes no sense at all. If you know that there is a God and you are sinning, it does no good to call yourself an atheist. You wouldn't be escaping punishment, and actually you would only be making things worse. In other words, this would be an incredibly stupid choice."

Because people always act rationally when forming their beliefs?

B. Prokop said...

"your hostility toward atheists"

Hostility? I have no hostility towards atheists - none at all. I pity them.

im-skeptical said...

"Hostility? I have no hostility towards atheists - none at all. I pity them."

Bob,

You place all atheists into three categories: intellectually lazy, muddleheaded, and gnu. This is not an expression of benevolence. And you still take the arrogant attitude that you are right, with no possibility that you might not be. Your arrogance, in and of itself, betrays your hostility.

B. Prokop said...

I repeat: I have zero hostility towards atheists. I consider them to be the victims of an anti-human mindset. They could be likened to a civilian populace suffering under enemy occupation. Should one be hostile towards such unfortunates? Of course not! One should pray for their liberation, and work towards achieving that end.

But am I "hostile" towards atheism? Again, of course I am. Just as I am hostile towards pornography, alcoholism, drug addiction, slavery, or any other evil. Am I therefore "hostile" to the slave? By no means! My hostility is reserved for slavery, whereas I wish nothing but good for the slave.

im-skeptical said...

" I have zero hostility towards atheists. ... But am I "hostile" towards atheism? Again, of course I am."

The old trope: love the sinner, hate the sin. Sorry, Bob. Based on what you said earlier, I don't buy it.

Victor Reppert said...

I-S: Well, then, since your reject the love the sinner hate the sin trope, would you say that you hate Christians?

You seem to despise the idea of Christianity, so the only way to avoid saying you hate Christians is to use a version of the "hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner" rhetoric.

B. Prokop said...

"I don't buy it."

Just as you don't "buy" so many other things that are nevertheless true. Your willful rejection of reality here is therefore no surprise.

And by the way, some tropes are old because they have proven themselves to be worth retaining. "Love your neighbor" is an "old trope". Do you wish to discard it due to its age? (But we all know your fondness for chronological snobbery.) Kindly tell me just what is wrong with hating the sin yet loving the sinner? It sounds like a highly admirable course of action to me, one that ought to be encouraged. Calling it an old trope in no way discredits it.

im-skeptical said...

When you label people as 'gnus', that is directed at the person, not the belief that he holds.

There are plenty of old tropes, but I have singled out one in particular, because it has been used again and again to cover hatred of people in the guise of hating their behavior. It is hypocritical. There is nothing wrong with despising a behavior or a belief, but you clearly despise a group of people, that you label as 'gnus', and you tell me it is their sin that you hate. Sorry, Bob and Victor, I don't buy it.

As for my own supposed hatred of Christians, I won't deny that there are some that I do in fact despise. There are also atheists that I despise. In particular, I despise those who refuse to engage in civil discourse with me, or to give me a fair hearing. And no, I don't despise the idea of Christianity. I just think it's stupid, because it defies reason and ignores evidence. I also despise the idea that people who hold to this (or some equally bad) ideology will deny my freedom and try to impose that ideology on me or others.

Dan Gillson said...

"In particular, I despise those who refuse to engage in civil discourse with me, or to give me a fair hearing."

Many of the commentators here started out being respectful toward you, me included. Then you started behaving like a little shit. Then you started behaving like a little crybaby. Now you're just behaving like some poor idiot with a chip on his shoulder. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Grow. The eff. Up.

im-skeptical said...

Should I follow your shining example, Dan? Your opinion means nothing to me.

DJC said...

Victor,

"On the other hand, it seems to me that atheists are rather slow to spell out what sexual morality they do hold if they don't think sex has to be restricted to heterosexual marriage. I would like to, for example see atheists address the question of whether it is ever morally justified to lie to someone in order to persuade them to have sex with you, which is what a LOT of people do who take a more liberal view of sex behavior."

I mentioned before how Haidt's research finds that liberals (of which atheists are a large part I think) de-emphasize the moral intuition of Purity/Sanctity and I think that directly translates into very few strict rules among atheists/liberals about sex as long as the issue is completely separate from other moral concerns (such as Care/harm, Fairness/Cheating).

But lying to someone to persuade them to have sex seems hardly separate from other moral concerns, it runs right into the same moral foundation as lying to someone to get their money. That's obviously Fairness/Cheating and Care/Harm, what else could it be? I would be surprised to hear a liberal or atheist justify this behavior.

I'm going to guess that the people you are referring to are morally immature young males at peak hormones embracing any identity that has less obvious barriers to sex. It's disappointing that you would think that kind of person's view is typical of atheist views on sex.

im-skeptical said...

I agree with DJC. A liberal view of what kind of sexual behavior may be out of bounds has little or nothing to do with the question of honesty. Do liberals lie about their sexual behavior? Probably as much as conservatives do. I think Victor's assumption that lying is a consequence of liberal sexual mores is just plain wrong. That's why I insist that he provide some kind of evidence to back up his accusations.

Dan Gillson said...

Well, good luck getting that fair hearing that you keep whining about, Skep. I'll just keep heckling you from the peanut gallery.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

"Well, good luck getting that fair hearing that you keep whining about, Skep."

Skep has gotten a fair hearing many times now on this website. He just doesn't like what he hears, preferring the stacked deck within his own opposite-of-skeptical mind.

In any case, any "fair hearing" worth the name would include his own coming up with actual evidence to back up his numerous unfounded accusations, such as his howler about the Early Church supposedly altering the Scriptures to comply with doctrine.

Skep appears to think that a fair hearing equates to him making unsupported statements, and then changing the subject when asked to back them up.

im-skeptical said...

I certainly have gotten a fair hearing many times here. I have had many interesting discussions. I don't expect people to agree with me. Some actually engage me in argument on the issues at hand, and I always appreciate that.

It's really only a few individuals who won't discuss issues with me. In your case, Bob, while you don't listen to any evidence I offer, at least you have remained relatively civil.

im-skeptical said...

Update on the racism of Christians:

One of the leaders of the recent racist chant at the University of Oklahoma has been identified as Parker Rice, a graduate of the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

It pains me that you mistake "tough love" for hostility. Such an attitude is furthest from my mind. Yet I cannot but "call 'em as I see 'em." I will not be an enabler to willful error, especially error that is dangerous to the health of one's soul.

I normally try to avoid internet psychoanalysis, but in your case you have left a trail of breadcrumbs to your soul as wide as a four lane highway. The picture that you yourself have painted of yourself is of a person deeply embittered by some past, unfortunate encounter with people of Faith (perhaps within your own family), which has left you incapable of seeing that you can approach the Truth of Christianity only through the muddied lens of blind hatred (or perhaps fear).

Yet in your heart of hearts you know perfectly well that all of your self styled "skepticism" is a complete fraud. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. The amount of time and effort you spend on this website (and presumably others) indicates a recognition of this, and a deep desire to be free of whatever self-imposed shackles have chained your intellect to the Great Lie of atheist materialism - the extinguisher of all hope, slayer of reason, enemy of Mankind, and destroyer of souls.

Hostile to you? Hardly - I pray for you regularly.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

I have explained several times why I spend time here. Perhaps you should listen for a change.

Papalinton said...

Jeffery Jay Lowder said... "Victor, that is interesting. But can I get an answer to my question?"


There are no answers a superstitious supernaturalist could bring to the question, Jeff, that is not a variant or interpretive contortion of apologetic religious double-speak.

Today's culture war is really about mitigating the significant deleterious effects of engaging an epistemologically devoid explanatory tool, religious belief. The culture war is about attenuating supernatural nonsense while society concurrently transits to a more robust, evidence-based, empirically substantiated explanatory paradigm, one that fosters and encourages research, discovery, inquisitiveness about the great challenges facing humankind. This new paradigm embraces the true and honest fall-back line of 'I don't know' followed with 'let's find out'. Contrast this to the religious grab-bag of supernaturalism into which all inexplicable events and miracles collect, under the rubric of 'goddidit'.

Is it any wonder that right-thinking people are largely voting with the feet and walking away in large numbers from religious explanations about us, the environment, the world and the universe. This is most particularly understood when those supernatural beliefs are seen to adversely impact on sound legislation, good representative governance, public school curriculum, health issues especially women's health, on marriage, homosexuality.

im-skeptical said...

There is no answer to Jeffery's question.
There is no answer to the issue I raised.
Instead, they deflect to ad hominem attacks against the one who raises the issue.

Victor Reppert said...

Jeff wanted to know what claims and arguments in the Conservapedia piece I do agree with. I will actually have to work through it step by step to answer fully, but I will gradually do so.

Papalinton said...



What Conservapedia is HERE

"Conservapedia is a self-described conservative, fundamentalist Christian alternative to Wikipedia. While the project began as an attempt to collaboratively develop an online encyclopedia, it has become in recent years a vanity project for its founder Andrew Schlafly, who uses the site as a way to forward his own particular insights on matters political and scientific. The site has a few other regular editors and administrators, most of whom use it to publicize their own projects or to write articles on their own pet causes. There is, in effect, no way to speak of "Conservapedia" as a collective voice or as a reflection of the insights of a larger community; what goes on the site reflects nothing more than the views of Schlafly and the handful of people he trusts with full editing privileges. The problem is separating what Schlafly and his cohorts write as truth from what the trolls (and there are many) edit onto the site. Basically, the entire wiki is one giant Poe's Law"

In other words, religious crud.

B. Prokop said...

"a vanity project ... to forward his own particular insights"

Wouldn't those words describe most websites, if not all of them?

im-skeptical said...

Most websites are not as outrageously ridiculous as Conservapedia.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Skep,

I'm no particular fan of Conservapedia, but to me it seems neither more nor less biased than your own website. Linton labels Conservapedia as "religious crud", but The Skeptic Zone could equally be called "atheist crud". I fail to see any qualitative difference.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

Conservapedia purports to be a source for home shcooling that is free of liberal bias and presented as factual information. I have a blog, and I don't pretend to be unbiased in my opinions. A PhD probably wouldn't use my blog as a teaching reference.

When Wikipedia presents factual information, it contains references. And despite your low opinion of it, it is a good way to quickly find information on a wide variety of topics. Look at the referenced sources on the page Victor linked. A mixed bag of right-wing and fundamentalist opinion, youtube videos, anti-atheist hate sites, etc. What you won't find there are solid mainstream sources of scientific information or news (unless they want to take something out of context).

B. Prokop said...

"And despite your low opinion of it"

That is true. I do have a low opinion of wikipedia. I have more times than I can count come across (occasionally major) factual errors in articles about subjects I am well versed in (such as European, especially Russian, history, astronomy, WWII, local information about Baltimore and Maryland, etc.). Wikipedia is useful as a "quick and (very) dirty look" source, but I'd never, ever trust it all by itself.

Papalinton said...

What Conservapedia best exemplifies is the level of garbage that constitutes the quantum of belief in supernatural superstition.

'Garbage in - garbage out' cannot be a better descriptor for the kind of mash that Victor thinks merits his serious consideration, to wit:

"Jeff wanted to know what claims and arguments in the Conservapedia piece I do agree with. I will actually have to work through it step by step to answer fully, but I will gradually do so."

Who does he think he is kidding?
A truism comes to mind: 'A turkey with a PhD is still a turkey.'

Sheesh.

Victor Reppert said...

I was saying what I intended to do. Doubts about that?

Victor Reppert said...

It seems reasonably sure that the atheist suicide rate is higher than that of believers. So, they got that right.

im-skeptical said...

"It seems reasonably sure that the atheist suicide rate is higher than that of believers. So, they got that right."

So that makes atheists hypocrites, I guess.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't think I would be inclined to say hypocrisy is essential to being an atheists, simply because there are too many types of atheists out there.

im-skeptical said...

And I don't think I would be inclined to say hypocrisy is essential to being a theist, simply because there are too many types of theists out there.

John Doe said...

Victor Reppert,

I also would be interested in knowing on what parts of the article you agree with as far as atheists being commonly hypocritical.