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Austin Cline

Atheism is Foolish and Wrong?

By February 26, 2006

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Have you ever read the "God Squad"? Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman jointly write a column dealing with questions about religious issues and they never fail to denigrate atheism and nonbelievers whenever the issue arises. I guess it doesn't matter what sort of theism and religion you hold to, as long as it is some sort of belief in God. But woe to those who actually disbelieve!

In a column a couple of years ago, they take two swipes at atheism. First, they insist that anyone who contemplates the universe must surely come to theism:

If you spend time asking yourself serious questions like, "Who made all this?" or "What is life all about?" chances are you will come to some kind of personal belief in a higher power.

Of course, lots of people work on just those questions without arriving at theism. But, just in case there was any confusion about what they really thought, the come up with this gem:

The notion that the universe and life and love and courage and joy are all just the result of some accidental cosmic joke is not only foolish, but also just plain wrong.

Not only do they misrepresent atheism by implying that unless you are a theist you must regard the wonders of life as a "cosmic joke," they then proceed to label nonbelievers as "foolish" on the basis of that Straw Man.

Hey, God Squad: what's actually foolish and "just plain wrong" is to denigrate others because they disagree with your beliefs. Such denigration is commonly a mark of insecurity - if you were comfortable with what you believe, you wouldn't feel inclined to insults those who don't believe. So, are you experiencing a crisis of faith that you'd like to share with us?

If so, I recommend not taking your own advice - don't treat faith as something you need to "work on" constantly. If you don't find a valid basis for belief, then don't assume that you have an obligation to continue believing and so need to work on finding new reasons for doing so.

Honest doubting requires accepting the premise that maybe you shouldn't believe after all and that perhaps you have been mistaken. That, in turn, requires letting go of the egotistical assumption that you cannot be mistaken and that others are "foolish" or "just plain wrong" if they disagree.


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January 23, 2007 at 4:41 pm
(1) Gerry says:

This is ridiculous, and yes i am poor at spelling, that your “credible” advice articles are allowed. This about is sad. I believe that these articles are inaccurate, and do not accurately present information in the areas of athesim and theism, and other God related subjects. Adhere to your ethics
We’ll provide you with accurate, engaging content. Like a friendly neighbor, we’ll give you frank advice that you can trust.Objectivity: Our Guides don’t give preferential treatment to any outside resource (publication, video, affiliate, Web site), based on their relationship with the person or company who authors or owns that resource.
My bad, my mistake your site does not promise objectivity or truth bye.

January 23, 2007 at 5:59 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

I’m sorry you feel that way. Would you care to elaborate on what, exactly, you think is “inaccurate” about anything I have written regarding atheism, theism, etc.?

August 5, 2008 at 7:09 am
(3) Sara says:

Umm… Sorry to say this, but there are a LOT of atheists who say the same thing about theists.

e.g. “Anyone who believes in God is delusional.” Or even, “How the hell can you believe in this crap? A magical fairy-man living in the sky?”

I understand that not all atheists are like this. (Just as all theists are not like the ones you mentioned.)

I just wanted to point out that atheists can be just as rude, offensive and insulting as theists.

August 5, 2008 at 7:53 am
(4) Austin Cline says:

1. What I described was theists describing atheism as “foolish” on the basis of a Straw Man description of atheism. I notice you don’t cite any examples of atheists doing this.

2. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing a particular belief or idea as foolish, wrong, delusional, etc. It’s quite different, though, to attack others as foolish for simply not agreeing with you one some matter.

January 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm
(5) RN says:

I am atheist and I actually find it easier to believe to the cosmic joke than to a deity.

There is nothing wrong about randomness. Emergence is a great force. A beautifully simple and effective.

The best thing about being atheist is that it does not matter what others think.

However, the Earth still rotates.

March 31, 2009 at 4:10 pm
(6) Luki says:

Since when does anything happen at random? Everything is determined by a set of forces or properties. The fact that we cannot comprehend or predict the outcome of those interactions gives us “chance”. But everything has a reason behind it.

Good article by the way. I definitly agree with your point of view.

March 7, 2011 at 9:48 am
(7) Dennis says:

I agree that theists shouldn’t mock anyone in such a way. However I do believe that it DOES matter which faith you belong to. I am a born-again Christian and believe that those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will receive eternal life. I believe this because the bible says so and I have had expiriences with this. The bible also says that “the fool says there is no God”

March 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm
(8) Austin Cline says:

The bible also says that “the fool says there is no God”

It says more than that. Do you believe that the rest of this verse is true? If so, why not cite it as well? Why not state openly that you don’t think any atheists ever do anything good?

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