Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Question 1: Why do you lump all theists together into one big group when there are many nuanced views of religion and god that are not fundamentalist?

The short answer to this question is that I don’t do this, or at least I try not to.

In fact, I will admit, atheists do this from time to time.  For the most part, however, this is not done out of any malice, this is simply human nature.  It is the way our brain has evolved to work.  We create categories in our head to fit people or things into, and once in that category our mind automatically assumes a certain level of similarity between all things in that group.  This is just basic psychology.

This conversation is generally brought up by theists who are more moderate or liberal in their beliefs.  I have often had conversations, for instance, with more liberal Christians who seem to think that I only find their beliefs objectionable or incorrect because I have incorrectly assumed that their beliefs are the same as fundamentalist Christians simply because both groups are attached to the name “Christian.”

“Why would you disagree with my beliefs, it’s not like I think being gay is a sin (insert any other fundamentalist talking point here), just because I'm a christian doesn't mean I agree with all those fundamentalist beliefs,” they will say.

Being gay is OK, but tell me you think my religion is wrong and I will break you.
 I can’t speak for every atheist but for me I think this question is the result of a basic misunderstanding between these two groups.  First, I am well aware that there is a wide variety of Christian beliefs.  I may have been a fundamentalist myself, but I interacted with many moderate/liberal Christians while I was a believer and since I became an atheist.
Some of these theists, like me, left some form of fundamentalism themselves, and I think they, more than anyone else, have trouble understanding my issues with religion.  I did actually consider becoming a more liberal Christian during my own disillusionment with fundamentalism; I also considered becoming a Buddhist and Taoist and several others.  I ultimately decided against all of those options because I felt the claims of all of those options were not proven by the evidence.  

See, I think the key difference is that the more liberal believers were offended or bothered by the social results of certain fundamentalist teachings, while atheists, by and large, have an issue with the lack of proof that religious people offer for their claims.  Don’t get me wrong, atheists also often have a problem with much of the social teachings of fundamentalists, abet for different reasons, but it starts with empiricism, which translates into a basic philosophical disagreement about how best to understand reality.

(From SMBC)
 Every person who believes there is a god must, at a minimum, believe in something for which they can offer no conclusive empirical evidence.  Indeed insistence on evidence is often maligned by more liberal believers, and I have found myself on the receiving end of criticism from so called “open minded” liberal Christians.  The thinking among more liberal believers seems to follow a post-modernist bent where the emotional content of your beliefs is more important than the factual content.  In an odd twist I have had many of these same theists suggest that I was just another form of fundamentalist no better than Christian fundamentalists I left, which relates to another question I plan on answering.  

So to sum up, I acknowledge that there is a myriad of various theist beliefs out there that weave a rich tapestry of diversity…and all of them have failed to produce evidence to suggest their beliefs correspond to any being that actually exists.

Maybe he is hiding behind the couch.

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