Are some prominent atheists "religiously atheist"



There's a class of scientist (and non-scientist) that pursues the atheism argument religiously. It seems that their ears are closed to reasoned argument. They are typically, in all other spheres of thinking, high-intellect, scientifically-minded individuals, and sure, they have reasoned arguments for their side of the argument, but on this particular subject, when it comes to considering counterargument, they seem to set out with unquestionable faith that a theist's position cannot possibly be a result of superior argument, intellect or understanding. Presented with strong arguments, they may become emotional or hostile, rather than allowing evidence or strength of argument to decide the matter.

I think of these people as "religiously atheist" which for me exposes the paradox of their state. Is this a fair or accurate description? By that, I am asking if, in your experience this is a fair stereotype of a significant number of people?


Posted 2016-07-18T14:24:59.147

Reputation: 265

Question was closed 2016-07-18T18:59:11.580

1You are conflating "religious" with "dogmatic". – Dave – 2016-07-18T15:07:34.253

@Dave Do you not think they're to some degree synonyms? Religion in many ways is dogmatic. I think it pays to distinguish carefully between religion and theism, which are not the same thing. Religion is frequently dogmatic while the theism we find among scientists and philosophers is much less likely to be so. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-18T15:29:00.050

Many become equally emotional or hostile on behalf of their scientific positions when they think those affect a broad range of people negatively: Watch Bill Nye, or Carl Sagan for that matter, argue about global warming in a non-reliigious setting. Emotionality is not an alternative to allowing evidence or strength of argument decide the matter, it is simply true that some arguments evoke passion. You can do both -- using rhetoric in the service of logic is not deception. – None – 2016-07-18T15:51:33.973

@jobermark to your first comment I agree, but a true scientist's highest aspiration is to find the truth, regardless of what it is and as such will find beauty in an argument regardless of whether it supports theism or atheism. I would share Call Sagan's emotions resulting from somebody's deluded refusal to accept the truth, but that is different to the joy he and I alike would feel if we were presented with a winning argument that global warming is not a threat to mankind. I argue that the "religious atheists" do not share this scientific desire to seek out the truth, whatever it may be. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-18T16:44:59.063

@jobermark that is the question I am asking; "is this a fair stereotype?" – samerivertwice – 2016-07-18T17:21:57.100

1But that is not a reasonable question for this site. Philosophy does not deal in fair stereotypes of current affairs. If that is really the heart of your question, this should be closed. – None – 2016-07-18T18:26:01.087

Depite not considering this a reasonable question, my t comments have grown too large. So I am rolling them up into an answer. Sorry if that makes the comment stream gappy. But taht is better than it being this long. – None – 2016-07-18T18:41:29.087

@RobertFrost I think the first comment is also a bias. Religion, by its definition, wishes to continue its tradition (to what it ties (ligio) back (re-)). Having a tradition, and being clear about it, is not being dogmatic. There are entire religions (e.g. Quakers and in theory even some kinds of Baptists) that have no dogma. If you do not fit in their tradition, they suggest you find another one. – None – 2016-07-18T19:01:33.817

While I'm sympathetic to your opinion, "do you agree with me?" questions are off topic here, and you're not giving us much of another way to approach this question. – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2016-07-18T19:57:32.617

"Some prominent atheists" - can you give us some names? – gnasher729 – 2016-07-18T21:38:27.010

@gnasher729 Say Richard Dawkins for example. He argues that "100% belief in god is because the strictness of doctrine requires it." with disregard for the scientific fact; that it's known at least since Anselm of Canterbury (1109) that 100% belief in God is often scientific or logical. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-19T07:09:18.800



Religion (religious) is a big multi-valenced word, bigger than even "game". To assert "person (or group X) is behaving religiously" without additional narrowing context will (almost certainty) leave quite a bit of ambiguity both in terms of what aspects of religion are relevant, and which aspects of his/her/their behaviors are relevant.

That being said, there are ways that you could make this characterization stick -- by establishing the appropriate narrowing criteria. If you're focused on the dogmatism of religion, and find that an anti-religious person has a mirror image form of dogmatism, then calling out this similarity, and referring to the second person's position as religious, can make sense.

I suspect that you have in your mind exactly this type of more specific interpretation but that doesn't ensure that everyone else will parse the world in the same way that you have.

Overall, I'm advocating for a more detailed, nuanced, analysis of the situation rather than trying to paint with a broad brush. If you don't narrow your focus, then you can look at a variety of personality traits, degree of dogmatism, a desire/need to achieve social validation of one's worldview, an urge to bring others into line with your (presumably correct) worldview... and you'll find that any ideological group has a mix of them. These are not aspects of religion (or politics or social class...) these are aspects of human nature. In the end, that is why you can find "religion" in amongst the atheists, they're all just people doing what people do.


Posted 2016-07-18T14:24:59.147

Reputation: 4 599

1thanks nice answer. What I consider the toxic atheism of scientists like Richard Dawkins, I find a little strange and unscientific, obsessive even. If that clarifies what I mean by 'religious'. Perhaps dogmatic would have been a more accurate word. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-18T19:22:18.793


The impression that the passionate are intractable is just prejudice, especially in this case.

Many religious atheists have come around to the side of Faith, e.g. C.S. Lewis. And at least as many ardent preachers have become atheists. They may argue vehemently, but to psychically predict they will not accept a counterargument, based upon their temperament, is just bias.

Your question itself it duplicates About atheism and secularism and what exactly they are, and I will stick by my answer there -- there are lots of different bases for atheism, and the vast majority of them are actually religious in nature, or the holders would be more often be agnostic instead of atheist. So, of course, most adherents will be religious about their atheism. In being religious they do not necessarily become illogical, or unscientific.

One primary difference in such debates is that the theists often openly admit they will not be swayed (right up until the point where they get swayed). You seem to be claiming that the more scientifically oriented among the atheists are hypocritical in pretending otherwise about themselves.

But consider this from a Kuhnian perspective. Many individual scientists, like the institution of science as a whole, only consider paradigm shifts when they are warranted. And there is no objective standard for what would be warranted.

Until then they remain devoted to the set of principles from which their success to date has proceeded. Such people can rapidly and dramatically reverse positions, but will seldom approach middle-ground. But this is as scientific an approach as any.

The distinction is where one suspends decisions in the light of new data, not whether. If it were not part of science to be adamant, theories would change too often to be tested.


Posted 2016-07-18T14:24:59.147


When you say 'the religious openly admit...' do you mean the religious atheists as well? I'm not sure if you're conflating religious with theist. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-18T19:15:54.903

Edited this out – None – 2016-07-18T20:09:12.333

I think 'the religious openly admit...' was more accurate, as the religious atheists openly admit nothing would persuade them. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-18T20:13:07.987

It would be right, but in my experience it is really not true. So I pulled it out. Most atheists pretend theirs is just a philosophical or logical position and that they could have been religious if religion made sense, meaning they might be reconverted if it started to do so. But they do not own up to the fact that they are generally motivated more by reaction against religion's history and effects than about the illogic of God-talk. They say the real motivation is secondary, but you can tell otherwise – None – 2016-07-19T15:12:48.803

Some ex theists I've met consider themselves to have been gullible and there's a cerebral narcissistic reaction. Others are angry at the evil done in the name of religion. Others are clinging to the the misconception that scientific explanations such as evolution preclude God. But generally I find atheism is emotionally motivated rather than logically. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-19T20:25:35.153

1I think, between the answer and the comment above, I just said that. – None – 2016-07-19T20:26:56.460

But don't get judgmental over it. All faith is ultimately emotionally motivated, even faith in science is motivated by our emotional needs for solidity and regularity. – None – 2016-07-19T20:33:36.493

I'm more interested in constructing a persuasive argument than judging anybody, if only just to understand my own position better. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-19T20:35:46.783

A persuasive argument for/against atheism, for/against theism, for/against religiosity, for/against the possibility of non-religiosity? Words like 'clinging to the misconception' don't make you sound non-judgemental. Being under a misconception is bad enough, 'clinging to it' seems malign. – None – 2016-07-19T20:43:48.707

Well I am describing a specific circumstance in which a certain class of person has a negative emotional reaction to a rational argument, so it is natural that I might be describing something to some degree malign. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-20T06:40:49.300

You have made the false claim that I am claiming all passionate people are intractable then used this false premise to argue that I am prejudiced, of which I said nothing judgemental and now it is ironic that you call me judgemental. – samerivertwice – 2016-07-20T06:48:15.037

I am not up to this level of defensive fussiness. I am not being unfair to you and have not stated the generalities you blame on me. "The impression that the X are Y" does not mean "The absolute and clear statement that every single X must always be Y"... Besides your question ony gives its reader that impression, your above statements do seem condescending toward the emotional at almost every opportunity and there are improvements you could make if you wish to make your non-judgement more clear. – None – 2016-07-20T13:18:38.257

Taking revenge for a comment when the body of the answer is not changed is both illogical and contrary to a general policy against revenge and gaming in general. – None – 2016-07-20T13:21:27.820

Sorry about that. I clicked on accept by accident when reading on my phone and as soon as I realised my error I clicked back on Dave's answer; which is the answer I accept. Why would I accept an answer whose opening line wrongly accuses me of prejudice? – samerivertwice – 2016-07-20T13:23:34.133

Let us continue this discussion in chat.

– None – 2016-07-20T13:23:58.163