Atheists Just Can't Win

That's what Greta Christina says. Damned if we do and damned if we don't.
When atheists focus our critiques on conservative or extremist religions, we get accused of ignoring the tolerant progressive ones, and lumping all religions together. But when we do criticize progressive or moderate religions, we're accused of mean-spirited overkill, of alienating people who could be our allies.

When atheists criticize Christianity, we get accused of being cowards for not criticizing Islam. But when we criticize Islam, we get accused of cultural insensitivity.

When atheists focus our critiques on ordinary religious beliefs held by the majority of people, we get accused of ignoring advanced modern theology and focusing on outdated beliefs that nobody takes seriously anymore. But when atheists do argue against modern theology, we get accused of elitism. What's more, when we argue against Modern Theologian A, we're accused of ignoring Modern Theologian B... and when we argue against Modern Theologian B, we're accused of ignoring Modern Theologian C... in an infinite regress of movable goalposts.

When atheists attempt to present an organized, unified front, we get accused of being Stalinist group-think robots. But when we're honest about disagreements among us, we get derided and dismissed for the supposed "schisms" that are supposedly dooming our movement to failure.

When atheists say we don't believe in God, we're told that we can't possibly be moral people. But when we make our morality clear in word and deed, many believers insist that we must be spiritual or religious or following God unconsciously -- even if we deny it.

As long as we don't know exactly how organic life began from non-life, then atheists' conclusion that life almost certainly began as physical cause and effect will be called blind faith in materialism. But if we can replicate abiogenesis (the origins of life from non-life) in the laboratory -- something that's expected to happen in the next few years -- this will be seen as proof that life had to be intentionally created. After all, it required people working in a lab for decades to make it happen!

If atheists don't offer specific arguments and evidence supporting atheism, we get told, "See? Atheism is just as much a matter of faith as religion." But when we do provide evidence and arguments for our position, we get accused of proselytizing.

If atheists admit that they can't be 100% certain of God's non-existence, believers pounce on that fragment of uncertainty, and atheism gets accused of being as much a matter of faith as religion. But if atheists insist that they are 100% certain that God does not exist (or as close to 100% certain as anyone can be), then believers pounce in that certainty... and atheism gets accused of being as much a matter of faith as religion.

When we speak out in any way about our atheism -- and when we continue to organize, and to make ourselves and our ideas more visible and vocal, and to generally turn ourselves into a serious movement for social change -- we get accused of being hostile, fanatical, rude, evangelical, bigoted, and extremist. But if we don't speak out, if we don't organize, if we don't forge ourselves into a powerful and visible movement... then the bigotry and misinformation and discrimination against us will continue unabated.
This is interesting. She offers arguments to back it up. See here.


John said...


This is a little off topic but I wanted to ask what you think of the teaching of christians that say loving our enemies is a unique teaching of Christ.

Victor Stenger seems to say this, with qualifications though, in his book "The New Atheism." In talking about the Golden Rule he says:

Jesus extends this to your enemies....This may be perhaps the only original moral teaching in the Gospels, but it is similar in concept to the Tao Teh Ching verse given above.

I think Victor may be right about the Tao Teh Ching but I'm not certain it is exactly the same. It says:

The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.

Sorry if this upsets you because it's off topic. I just wanted to get your thoughts on this issue.

goprairie said...

The mere fact that it is all so slippery should be taken as huge evidence in favor of it being molarky. There aren't a thousand versions of the truth. Biology agrees on how cells divide and as time goes on, we learn more certainty about science things and gsin increasing concensus as more detail is learned. With time, we only have more versions of religion to argue agsinst. It is was the great 'truth' wouldn't there be fewer versions and wouldn't it progress towards agreement?

zenmite said...


Some version of this also exists in the teachings of the Buddha. From the Dhammapada:

In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.

and this:

'He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'--in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease.

'He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'--in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease.

To me the above verses suggest enemies are not to be hated, but loved.

Also this:

The Buddha advised a layman who had become a mendicant; "He was not only expected to return love for hate if anyone abused him verbally or physically but was expected to practice love, pity, tenderness and impartiality."
---The Living Thoughts of the Buddha by Ananda Coomarswamy

Some form of the golden rule exists in many religions.

Edwardtbabinski said...

Hi Cole,

Please google my article:

"The Golden Rule and Christian Apologetics" Babinski

Mark Plus said...

Theists can't get their story straight about the political consequences as well. Does atheism make a country violent and oppressive, like the Soviet Union? Or does it make a country pacifist and weak, like France?