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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why are atheists so disliked?

I've seen a few articles in the religious blogosphere about Christopher Hitchen's death, usually about his atheism, sometimes comparing him to Richard Dawkins and finding him a bit less hate-worthy. It made me think about why atheists are so disliked by Christians ..... it's hard not to stumble over the many articles and books reviling them.

Maybe part of the reason is that believers think atheists have no moral center. I can say, though, as a former atheist, that I have pretty much the same ethics now that I had before: I was and I still am anti-war, I did and still do give to charity, I did and still do try to do the right thing, to be compassionate and fair and honest.

Maybe another reason believers dislike atheists is that atheists are seen as critical of belief in God, but while there are fundamentalist atheists who like to argue (just as there are fundamentalist Christians who like to argue), I think most atheists are critical of the same things in religion that many believers are also critical of: the discontinuity between religious ideals and the way religious institutions often operate.

I saw a post today at the NYT's philosophy blog that talks about why atheists are so disliked. Here's just the beginning of the post ....

Good Minus God

I was heartened to learn recently that atheists are no longer the most reviled group in the United States: according to the political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, we’ve been overtaken by the Tea Party. But even as I was high-fiving my fellow apostates (“We’re number two! We’re number two!”), I was wondering anew: why do so many people dislike atheists?

I gather that many people believe that atheism implies nihilism — that rejecting God means rejecting morality. A person who denies God, they reason, must be, if not actively evil, at least indifferent to considerations of right and wrong. After all, doesn’t the dictionary list “wicked” as a synonym for “godless?” And isn’t it true, as Dostoevsky said, that “if God is dead, everything is permitted”?

Well, actually — no, it’s not. (And for the record, Dostoevsky never said it was.) Atheism does not entail that anything goes .......


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