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November 2010


Varför vissa religiösa så desperat söker ateisters godkännande

Olof Stroh har tipsat mig om en väldigt intressant artikel på AlterNet skriven av Greta Christina. Här nedan följer några mer eller mindre väl valda utsnitt ur artikeln. Ett bättre alternativ är förstås att läsa hela.

If you hang around the online atheist world long enough, you’ll notice an interesting pattern. Many religious and spiritual believers who engage with atheists seem very intent on getting atheists’ approval for their beliefs.

Typically, these believers acknowledge that many religions are profoundly troubling. They share atheists’ revulsion against religious hatreds and sectarian wars. They share our repugnance with religious fraud, the charlatans who abuse people’s trust to swindle them out of money and sex and more. They share our disgust with willful religious ignorance, the flat denials of overwhelming scientific evidence that contradicts people’s beliefs. They can totally see why many atheists are so incredulous, even outraged, about the world of religion.

But they think their religion is an exception. They think their religion is harmless, a kinder, gentler faith. They think their religion is philosophically consistent, supported by reason and evidence — or at least, not flatly contradicted by it.

And they want atheists to agree.


Believers seeking the Atheist Seal of Approval for their beliefs seem to see atheists as the gold standard. They know that most atheists have rejected religion for a reason: they know we take religion seriously, and that we’ve examined it carefully and thoughtfully before rejecting it. They know that we’re more familiar with the tenets and traditions of religion than most believers: that we not only know more about religion in general than most believers do, but that we know more about specific religious beliefs than the people who actually adhere to those beliefs. They see that, as Julia Sweeney so eloquently put it, we take religion too seriously to believe in it. They see how passionately we value the truth — and they respect that.

So if they can get us to give their religion a thumbs-up… that would really mean something. They understand that religious believers — other believers, that is, not themselves of course — often don’thave very good reasons for their beliefs. They sincerely care about the truth, I think (this is definitely not the case for all believers, but it is for these folks), and they want to test their faith against the harshest critics they can think of. They want their cognitive dissonance resolved — the tension between the religious faith they hold to be true, and the evidence and arguments showing that the case for their faith is crap — and they understand enough about the communal reinforcement and other cognitive errors to know that Other People Who Already Agree With Them isn’t the most rigorous way to resolve that dissonance. If they could get some atheists to tell them their belief is okay, that would resolve that annoying dissonance in a heartbeat.


If you’re hoping for the Atheist Seal of Approval for your religious beliefs, I’ve got some bad news:

It isn’t going to happen.

We think your religion is philosophically inconsistent. We think your religion is completely unsupported by either evidence or reason. And many of us — probably most of us — think your religion fucks people up.

I’ll stop here for a Fairness Moment. Yes, most atheists understand that different religions are, you know, different. And I’m one of them. We get that some religions do more harm than others; that some religions are more out of touch with reality than others; that some religions are more grossly contradicted by hard evidence than others. (We understand, for instance, that theistic evolution, while having no good reason whatsoever to believe it and in fact being flatly contradicted by a mountain of evidence, isn’t quite as outlandishly bonkers as young-earth creationism.)

Some of us — and again, I’m among them — will even say that, if the only religions in the world were the tolerant, ecumenical, moderate and progressive forms of religion, we wouldn’t care all that much about it. We’d see it about the way we see urban legends about alligators in the sewers and whatnot: just another silly mistaken idea that some people are mysteriously attached to. We’d still disagree with it, we’d still argue against it if you asked our opinion… but we wouldn’t be devoting time and energy to building a community of people who don’t believe it, or to persuading people who do believe it out of their beliefs.
And, of course, we think you have the right to your beliefs. Absolutely, passionately, without question. We think your beliefs are full of beans… and if anyone tries to use force or violence or law to stop you from believing it, we’ll sock them right in the jaw. Or at least vote to get them out of office.

But for majority of atheists, that’s the most you’re going to get out of us.


In the years that I’ve been writing about atheism and debating with religious believers, I’ve actually become more confident in my atheism. I’ve become more confident because I see the same bad arguments for religion over and over and over again. And over. And over. And over yet again. Sometimes I think that if I see the argument from design one more time, or the God of the gaps, or “different ways of knowing,” or “you can’t disprove it with 100-percent certainty, therefore it’s reasonable to believe it,” or Pascal’s freaking wager, I’m going to have an aneurysm. Whenever I see someone make an argument for religion, I still have moments of wondering, “Is this going to be the argument that convinces me?”… but those moments are becoming shorter and shorter every day, to the point where I’m measuring them in nanoseconds, and every day my hope that I’ll see something surprising dwindles just a little bit more.


We think you’re mistaken. And if you’re honest, you need to acknowledge that you think we’re mistaken. Yes, it’s true, every time an atheist says, “I don’t believe in God,” we’re implying that people who do believe in God are wrong. But every time you say that you do believe in God, you’re implying that people who don’t are wrong.

That’s fine. You can think we’re wrong, and we can think you’re wrong. We can have that conversation, or we can put it on the back burner and talk about something else. We can be allies, friends, families, with people we disagree with.

But that’s not going to work if that alliance or friendship depends on us giving you our seal of approval for beliefs we think are flatly mistaken.

After all — you’re not giving us yours.

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