I am not anti-theist

by Neil Rickert

Recently the Patheos blog site renamed it’s “Atheist channel” to “Nonreligious channel”.  The resulted in some comments and blog posts about the change.  For me, it didn’t matter much.  Since I gave up on religion, I have always preferred to call myself “non-religious” rather than “atheist”.

Here, I mainly want to respond to:

which argues for anti-theism.

In that post, Dan Arel argues:

Religion is dangerous and hurts real people. I strongly believe that when the world is reasoned out of religious faith, the world will be a much better place.

Some people see atheism as dangerous and as hurting real people.  But that’s not my main concern here.  I just don’t see that it would make the world a better place if religion were to disappear.

We already have non-religious people who are in the anti-vax movement.  We already have non-religious people who are climate change deniers.

The things that Dan objects to in religion are human foibles.  Yes, religion manages to concentrate those into a movement.  But there are plenty of other ways that these human foibles can be concentrated into group-think.

So I just do not see that anti-theism provides some kind of solution for problems that arise out of being human.

For myself, I accept that people can have weird beliefs.  And maybe some folk think that I have weird beliefs.  But we should be able to get along in spite of individual wierdness.

13 Comments to “I am not anti-theist”

  1. I completely agree–being religious doesn’t make you bad; being non-religious doesn’t make you good. If belief in god gives people comfort – and doesn’t harm others – then so what. I also know what you mean about the term “atheist.” For me, it seems to be associated with anti-theism and intolerance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The harm is the carrot and stick, the concept of being born guilty of a crime and commanded to spend the rest of your life begging to be forgiven. The faithful are under the false premise that morality is gleaned from their religious text. The book is in constant conflict with what we know about our natural world. It is not intolerance to point out hypocrisy, religious bigotry and intolerance. It is not intolerance to recoil at the efforts of Christians to inject schools with religion masquerading as science. It is not intolerance to question unbelievable claims about the natural world. There’s more. Much more. Imagine living in a culture where 80+% of the population believes in Mithras and the supernatural cult is pervasive. It’s in every nook and cranny of your culture. Now imagine that you do not believe in any gods because of no evidence to it’s validity. Religion should be questioned and yes ridiculed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree. Besides, in the absence of god-based religion there will always be other “higher morality”-based groups waiting to step in to fill in the void.

    Non-religious is also a way better term than atheist. “Atheist” has too many varying definitions.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think on average the world would be a better place without religion because religion is generally at odds with reason and rationality and is generally accompanied with faith based beliefs in the supernatural. This means that religion feeds into and glorifies reasoning and behavior that are not evidence based, and thus feeds into reinforcing conspiracy theories, anti-vaxers, global warming denialism, etc. Cognitive biases are connected and if we aren’t working to discourage people from those biases in major ways including discouraging religious beliefs that reinforce them then they are more likely to pop up in other beliefs because they’ve been validated through religion.


    • I think, though, the post is saying that atheists don’t have a monopoly on reason and may also be irrational at times. There are anti-vaxer and global warmer deniers who don’t believe in god. There are also many believers who aren’t anti-vaxers and global warming deniers. Sometimes, atheists don’t believe in god just because god didn’t “prove out” for them (i.e. god wasn’t there when my mother was dying). I’ve also known atheists who believe in some other (IMO) irrational ideas – like witchcraft, fate, reincarnation, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And that’s irrelevant to whether or not phasing out religion would make the world a better place. Atheists don’t need a monopoly on reason or rationality in order for phasing out religion to benefit society. They are separate claims and issues. My point is that religion is one of the biggest validators of cognitive biases and irrationality and faith-based (non-evidence-based) reasoning. As such, allowing religion to go unchecked and without opposition validates it and thus allows other people in society (even the non-religious) to have more reasons to be irrational (because it’s already allowed if not favorable to do so by the majority of people that are religious). Irrationality and dogmatism can spread like a virus which is why we need to actively work to suppress the major sources of that virus. Religion is perhaps one of the biggest sources of this kind of virus and it is positively correlated with science-denialism which is not something you can claim is the case for atheism.

        Liked by 2 people

        • And that’s irrelevant to whether or not phasing out religion would make the world a better place.

          Religion isn’t going to be phased out.

          If you were to try, you would find people inventing new religions as fast as you could phase out the old.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Tell that to people that are no longer religious. As history has shown, the proportion of religious compared to the non-religious and atheists is shrinking which is a gradual phasing out of religion. You can call it whatever you’d like though, as the label doesn’t matter to me all that much.

            Also it’s not something for a person to ‘try’ but rather involves a societal effort of simply spreading education about the importance of reason and evidence and combating our cognitive biases the best we can. It’s not about phasing out a particular religion (which if done would result in new religions popping up as you mentioned) but rather phasing out religion in general which is an entirely different kind of goal. Rather than phasing out some specific beliefs, it’s about phasing out faith-based reasoning generally including beliefs in the supernatural and instead encouraging the prioritizing of evidence-based reason and rationality.

            This is likely to be a generational battle where younger generations are more likely to be comprised of a higher percentage of atheists and non-religious citizens and will slowly replace populations of theists with non-theists. As long as society finds solidarity (via humanism and the like), and works to replace the community components that are largely dominated by religious institutions, then there’s no reason to keep religion at that point and no longer a driving force to lure people into the dogma and so forth. So it involves education on a general level, not the attack one any particular religion.

            Liked by 1 person

          • What an unfortunate blind spot for humanity. The phasing out part is a laudable goal. Between you and me I love the challenge.


      • Finding examples of people that are atheists and that are also irrational in some ways, doesn’t at all negate the detriments that religion has on society. Saying that the world wouldn’t be a better place without religion because non-religious people also do bad things is logically fallacious. It’s like saying that getting rid of a particularly harmful pathogen (bacterial strain “A”) wouldn’t make us any healthier because there are other types of harmful pathogens that exist too. It’s a horrible argument to say the least.


  4. Who the heck are real people? As for your personal identifier, it’s simple, yes God=theist, no god atheist. You can’t be both.


  5. We already have non-religious people who are in the anti-vax movement. We already have non-religious people who are climate change deniers.

    I live in one of the republics of the former USSR so the example that sprung to my mind was, rather than non-religious climate change deniers, the USSR. This was a militantly anti-religious, pro-atheism regime and it produced a society and system of government that wasn’t much in advance of Khomeini’s Shia theocracy, and that was before it collapsed.

    Liked by 2 people

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