Claim: “Fundamentalist Atheists are … angry, anti-intellectual, unloving, judgmental, etc…” 17


Bob Kellemen of RPM Ministries has blogged an article over at everyday christian living that is a good encapsulation of the numerous myths surrounding non-belief, so lets take a look.

[Note to Bob … I dropped a link to this into your blog, so do feel free to reply in the comments section below]

He starts out with references to earlier articles.

  • One in which he asserted that non-belief is actually a response to life letting us down and also the thought that we (the non-believers)  perceive god to be unfair and so have rejected him.
  • The other asserts that we don’t want to live for others, only ourselves, and so that is apparently why we choose to reject Jesus.

What he totally fails to grasp is that non-belief is not a rejection for emotional reasons of a real supernatural entity, but rather it is the default position … the null hypothesis. There has been a complete lack of empirical objective evidence to verify even one single supernatural Christian claim, or for that matter non-Christian claim, and until that changes there is no reason to embrace a fantasy as fact.

Anyway, in his latest article, he identifies what he calls “Five Hallmarks of The Fundamentalist Atheists”, so we shall now take a quick peek at each and see what we have … here is the first …

Hallmark # 1: Angry

When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are angrier than the Christians they accuse of being angry … I wonder if it has something to do with their suppressed rage against the God they say does not exist …

No Bob, folks get upset when faced with outrageous claims, when told that they are wicked, evil and doomed unless they embrace a specific superstitious belief, when initial attempts to inquire about rational evidence fails to produce anything, and when logical arguments are dismissed, and even when debunked over and over, the same tired old arguments are trotted out again and again.

Hallmark # 2: Anti-Intellectualism

When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are more anti-intellectual than the Christians they accuse of being anti-intellectual. In personal conversation I’ll sometimes ask, “What books by thinking, loving Christians have you read in the last year? The last decade?” Almost universally the answer is, “None!” …

… Could this be caused, in part, by fear of being swayed by the other perspective? …

… Another aspect of this anti-intellectualism is “cherry picking.” That is, in a discussion they will describe one extreme negative example from the life of a Christian and stereotype that as indicative of the Christian norm. …

There are two distinct points to address here, so lets look at each in turn.

First, we are apparently “anti-intellectual” because we don’t sup their cool aid due to our inherent fear of being swayed. Nope, non-believers tend not to sup nonsense because they have better things to read. I personally tend not to read a lot of stuff … I don’t read religious texts … true, but I also do not read books on astrology, water dowsing, or for that matter stamp collecting or knitting. I have no interest, nor would I learn anything. Most Atheists tend to also be skeptics and hence are always interested in a wide range of topics and quite happy to change their minds where presented with new information. In stark contract, it has been my experience that many believers are quite close-minded, and when presented with evidence that refutes a belief, they discard the evidence and retain the belief. Examples abound, but the primary illustration is the rejection of evolution which is perhaps one of the most established facts in modern science and embraced as reality by 99.9% of life-science scientists … yet rejected by many religious people. In other words, when it comes to “anti-intellectual”, look in the mirror.

Now, on to his other point … “cherry picking.. Sure, folks will indeed pick out some of the truly outrageous stuff for mockery and criticism, but that does not in any way exclude any who assert supernatural claims without any evidence at all – that is the Christian norm. Christianity is not criticized and rejected because of some extremes, that just illustrates where delusional belief can take you. Instead it is rejected due to the complete lack of evidence for any and all supernatural claims.

Hallmark # 3: Unloving

When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are less loving than the Christians they accuse of being unloving …

And yet, statistically, Christians give far more to charitable causes than non-Christians. They give far more time to charitable work. The fundamentalist atheist expends more energy railing against Christians than sacrificially giving to others—like Christ lived His life.

Need I point out the obvious … these “loving” Christians label normal decent humans as immoral and wicked on the basis that they are gay. There is open discrimination against non-believers, and the desire to impose irrational beliefs upon others. Folks should of course be free to believe in whatever they wish, but they cross the line when they attempt to impose their beliefs upon others. Public prayer, religious beliefs masquerading as science and the numerous attempts to impose it, on and on, its a long list.

As for the statistics on giving, that very much depends upon how you define charity. Many religious organizations would come in scope, but should not be counted. The reality is that as individuals, non-believers are just as giving and just as loving as believers, if not more so.

Hallmark # 4: Judgmentalism

When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are more judgmental than the Christians they accuse of being judgmental. When they hold a view with passionate conviction they call it “social justice.” When a Christian holds a view with passionate conviction they call it “arrogant condemnation” or “hateful intolerance.”

This conveys the typical post-modernist perspective that the only approved moral position is amorality. They fail to acknowledge that their refusal to allow others to hold a moral view other than their own view is itself intolerant.

John Dickson has an excellent definition of humility: holding power in the service of others. Why wouldn’t the Christian who stands up for pro-life views be seen as compassionately and humbly holding power in the service of the most powerless—the unborn? Instead, in the supposed name of an accepting and cooperative society, the only acceptable cooperation is blind allegiance to an atheistic worldview.

This is of course to a reference to topics such as gay rights and also pro-choice views. Morality, secular morality, is far superior and far more tolerant than religious morality. Deploying religious texts is no basis for making decent moral choices, only logic and reason is.

For example, many (not all) believers are anti-gay on the basis that the bible says so and have no other logical reason or justification for that stance. That is not an alternative morality that needs to be respected. Instead it is an utterly irrational position that only warrants mockery and derision for the considerable harm it does.

Incidentally, there is no such thing as the “atheistic worldview”. Atheism is the rejection of claims regarding supernatural entities … that’s all, nothing more. Discussions and views regarding morality have other sources such as secular humanism. Once you discard the irrational and all the dubious morality it brings with it, folks naturally fall back upon more rational approaches.

Hallmark # 5: Weakness

Fundamentalist atheists often accuse Christians of being “weak” because “they have to place their faith in a Supreme Being.” Is faith weak? Is it weak to engage in “creative suffering” that provides healing hope that leads not only to surviving, but also to thriving? It is weak to engage in “creative suffering” that not only produces meaning in seeming meaningless suffering, but prompts and promotes sacrificial living for others?

“Weak” is not a word I’ve ever deployed, nor and I aware of anybody who makes this assertion. What I would advocate is a rational basis for determining what is true and what is not. Is there something beyond the rational? Yep there sure is, its the irrational.

So that’s it then … have we learned something new? Perhaps yes, we can see that (some) believers truly do not comprehend non-belief and cannot grasp that we are not simply angry at their god, but that we dismiss their supernatural claims as a fantasy in precisely the same manner that they would dismiss a claim that magic pink invisible unicorns are real – there is not a single jot of credible evidence.

Oh, and before anybody comments … yes the unicorns are indeed pink and invisible at the same time. They can maintain that special status because they are also magic. (see, I can deploy religious logic as well).


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17 thoughts on “Claim: “Fundamentalist Atheists are … angry, anti-intellectual, unloving, judgmental, etc…”

  • Sage

    You actually proved him right every single time you tried to answer. Every objection of yours ends up an affirmation. LOL! Priceless.

  • LL

    If we’re talking judgmentalist atheists, I’ll say yes, the Internet variety (who may be doing the anonymity thing, just as I am) can be extremely judgmental about anyone having any sort of beliefs that don’t chime with their own. Talking as if all Christians are identical with lunatics like the Westboro Baptists is not just judgmental, it’s extremely ignorant. Calling someone delusional or mentally ill because their experiences have led them to a different conclusion (whether it be about souls, deities or whatever) from your own is judgmental and narrow-minded. Insisting that someone else should lose what may be a worldview that gives great comfort and joy to them simply because ONLY atheism is right, is judgmental. Sneering at agnostics for being “weak” or “wishy washy” or not brave enough to call themselves atheists is judgmental. I’ve seen and sometimes been on the receiving end of this sort of crap. It’s schoolyard bully stuff. Yes, I can understand that American atheists feel uneasy; but it doesn’t justify behaving this way.

    For the record I belong to no religion and never have.

  • Walt Carlson

    Darrell and Haggis…thanks for correcting me. I’m still waiting for a response from Bob to my question about what ‘fundamentalist atheism’ is and how you detect it??

  • HaggisForBrains

    Walt – I think that you can describe yourself as an atheist, since the a- prefix generally means “without” rather than “against”.

  • Walt Carlson

    Bob
    What,exactly, is a ‘fundamentalist atheist’?? And, how do you ‘detect’ these aspects that you wrote about??
    I would ‘claim’ to be an atheist, except that the ‘a’ before ‘theist’ implies that I would be against something, in this case ‘theism’. I’m not. That is, I’m not against any religion; what people choose to believe is their decision, not mine. What I hope, is that their belief system was an informed decision, not some sort of brainwashing that happened in their youth. Unfortunately, for most people, I would say that their ‘belief’ system was inculcated in them at a very early age.
    Be that as it may, I very much disagree with your assertions about anger, anti-intellectualism, unloving-in fact all your assertions !! However, I would question WHY you have written such statements?? And, I would make several points: First-no atheist has worked against gays, marriage, abortion (need I go on?). Second-no atheist has worked against established religions (the ones I know have a ‘live and let live’ attitude). And, finally, no atheist has desecrated any church, mosque, or synagog.
    What I find most disconcerting are evangelicals who insist that their view of the world MUST apply to everyone. This is a form of control-something that is very much against freedom of religion !!

    • Darrell

      Walt, anti means against. The “a” means without. So you can identify as atheist. You may find however that many Christians (and other theists) think that being atheist equates being anti-theist. I have to explain this to nearly every theist I meet. I am of course both at this point but I usually go to the trouble of holding their hand.

  • Bob Kellemen

    Dave,

    Thanks for posting my reply. And thanks for your reasoned response.

    I actually, believe it or not, have enjoyed many of my interactions that I’ve responded to on EDC. Some, I think (just me) are a tad biased and have some “cheap shots” and a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” quality to their reaction to my responses to their comments. Of course, some of it is, I’m not responding perfectly or understanding/empathizing as well as I could. I am now engaged in five separate ongoing email conversations with self-described atheists. It’s amazing how the tenor and tone of the rhetoric becomes so much more civil when people aren’t posting for all the world to see (not sure why). But as we are getting to know each other, none of the six of us are using any of the “five hallmarks” against each other. I appreciate and enjoy such civil conversations about these important issues (more civil than one of your poster’s quip about my first two degrees…)

    I hear you and others clearly about the source of atheism not being a response against God but a non-belief in any god. I accept your perspective, but I disagree with it. I do so on the basis, readily admitted, of my interpretation of a book that you do not believe in. So I would not expect you to agree, and I do not say that in a condescending way.

    It is interesting to me that Freud and Jung and many other psychologists through the years have surmised that Christians believe not simply on the basis of reason, but more so on a emotional/experiential/subjective basis. While I disagree with much of their conclusions, I agree with their contention that belief and disbelief, faith and doubt, are complex, comprehensive processes. No matter how loud we scream “I only believe what is objective and reasonable,” we all bring our life experiences, our upbringing, our DNA, our emotions, our subjective evaluations, our choices, our relationships, our desires, etc., to how we evaluate the evidence we observe. That, in many ways, was the point of my quick summary of why people believe/disbelieve.

    One final thought, and I will leave the comment board to others, unless you wanted me to engage you further.

    Many on the EDC site have asked for more detailed “support” for aspects shared in the original and updated blog post. The small comment section of a post can’t possibly adequately and intelligently address people’s sincere questions. So, I dedicated many hours and collated a working list of over six dozen books from a Christian perspective that address “Exploring the Case for Christianity.” You can browse that list, with direct links to Amazon.com here: http://bit.ly/Case4Christ

    Thanks again for your graciousness in allowing me to post my thoughts.

    Bob

  • Dave Gamble Post author

    Reply to Bob

    Bob,

    Right now I suspect you might be a tad busy replying to the various folks who have responded, so I do appreciate you taking the time to reply, much appreciated.

    What did surprise me a bit is that you do not appear to have addressed the primary concerns raised, but perhaps that is understandable due to the sheer number of dialogs you have had to engage in.

    Lets start at the beginning.

    The two non-belief articles you referenced assert that non-believers truly do believe and have simply rejected god due to anger or reject jesus because they do not want to live a selfless life. I, and many others, pointed out that this is not factually correct, we don’t secretly believe, there is a complete lack of factual evidence, so we reject the claims.

    You replied that you were applying this to yourself and other believers. In that context I take your point, there are of course believers who do indeed have times of doubt for exactly the reasons you cite, but you did cite these articles in the context of an article about atheism, so in that context the assertion is simply not true.

    You then moved on to discuss (in your reply) that you simply wished to discuss “bullying” and claimed that this is done by some leading atheists. I truly do question the use of the word “bullying”, factually based criticism of a belief or an idea is not “bullying”. There is an even playing field here, all ideas and concepts are open for criticism and non-belief claims no exception nor demands any exception.

    A primary complaint here … the “your don’t get atheism” quip … revolves around the claim that we secretly believe and are just angry … as has been said over and over, we don’t. That has been pointed out by all the non-believers, but I just do not see that message sinking in, and so that perhaps might explain the frustration you detect here.

    OK, moving on and briefly looking at your reply to my comments on the 5 hallmarks …

    1. Anger: When I read Hawkins, et al, I hear anger and bullying and attacking and stereotyping. I don’t mind reasoned argumentation. And I’m not sure either you or I could possibly discern in another person the motives behind this reaction. You list your reasons, which to me, even if true, do not require or support the at times vicious attacks.

    Personally I find the written dialogs you complain about to be well reasoned and also evidence based. I’d assert that the term, “vicious attack” is inappropriate. Nobody is being violent, or even suggesting violence. Nor is anybody being personally abusive, but instead ideas and beliefs are being challenged. If such challenges are factually wrong then it should be simple to refute them.

    2. Anti-intellectual: It’s not drinking the cool aid but reading widely at least in an area where you are going to critique others, and reading not the lowest common denominator but the highest. Which goes to your second point: I think the outrageous mockery is unnecessary.

    While criticism from a position of complete ignorance would of course be silly, and should that actually happen, then it would be simple to refute by outlining what is not being understood. However immersion and a deep inside reading is not required for criticism to be valid. To illustrate, criticism of astrology is valid even without a deep understanding and reading of an assortment of astrology texts.

    Regarding mockery and satire of crazy ideas, it is oh so appropriate and perhaps the best non-violent response. Think carefully now … how would you respond to Westboro Baptist, can you honestly deploy a better alternative?

    3. Unloving: I think the examples you give are stereotypes and don’t take into account the billions of loving acts/attitudes by millions of Christians. That’s part of the point of the blog–recognize the good as well as critiquing the bad, and, admit that atheists, too, can be unloving toward Christians.

    The anti-gay rhetoric the I used to illustrate is no stereotype. It is sadly a reality for many and results in considerable harm. As individuals, both believers and non-believers, there are indeed many decent honorable loving and giving individuals. I would however refute the claim that “belief” imparts something magical then enables believers to be especially loving, and that non-believers lacking this magic are thus unloving, there is no evidence that verifies such a claim. I am simply pointing out that people will express outrage when they encounter bigotry, or express considerable frustration when presented with outrageous claims that have been logically refuted many times over.

    4. Judgmentalism: I disagree on there being no atheistic worldview. Much more could be said there. And there were no “code words” for specific issues. But again, you’re going back to the atheistic critique of Christians. I was trying to raise some legitimate critiques of some fundamentalist atheists. Why is your post fine, but mine all wrong? Why is Hawkins ripping Christians right, but….?

    As has been explained many times … Atheism is simply the rejection of claims regarding deities due to a lack of evidence. Thats it. All that has happened is that individuals have applied critical thinking to religious claims and reached a conclusion. It is not a world-view. You persist in making the claim that it is a world-view, but offer no evidence, nor even explain why.

    Regarding the “why am I wrong, and only you are right?” … OK, lets rewind. You asserted that non-believers were being judgmental of believers. We are back to the anti-gay rhetoric right? As I pointed out …
    – belief condemns on the basis of some religious text … no logic, no reason
    – in reply people point out how outrageous this is
    In this context we are being accused of being judgmental. You now reply, “why are we wrong and you right?” … The response should be obvious, irrational bigotry is not an alternative morality, it is simply wrong.

    >> 5. Weak: I’ve heard many use that arguments…”faith is a crutch.”

    As I explained, I’ve not made this argument, nor is it an argument I would choose to personally deploy, I do not believe there is any evidence to assert such a claim. I would however observe that this is actually a claim made by believers, not non-believers. Do they not assert that we are all sinners and must have christ, and that unless we have christ we are lost. That would indeed appear to be a claim that fits that criteria.

  • HaggisForBrains

    From Bob’s blog:

    In The Psychology of Unbelief, I proposed that:

    Unbelief stems from our emotional response to our mental perception that life has let us down, and, therefore, the Author of life is at fault and faulty.
    Unbelief is an emotional response to a mental interpretation about the ultimate Relational Being where we falsely conclude that this Being is unfair, un-protective, unsafe, and untrustworthy, and so we choose to trust anything and anyone but Him.

    How can I blame a god (Author, Ultimate Relational Being) for being at fault, unfair etc. when I first of all don’t believe he exists? This argument for unbelief starts from a position of belief!

    Un.be.lievable! Sounds like a Strawman to me. Certainly some sort of logical fallacy.

    • Darrell

      Yeah. Another way to look at this is that Bob is describing people who are pretending not to belief out of bitterness instead of atheists who lack belief due to lack of evidence.

  • Darrell

    Excellent rebuttal.

    For reference, his education is:
    B.A. in Pastoral Studies at Baptist Bible College
    Th.M. in Theology and Biblical Counseling at Grace Theological Seminary
    Ph.D. in Counselor Education at Kent State University

    It must be the first two degrees in theology based counseling which have corrupted his mind and which prevent him from understanding what it means to be atheist.

  • Bob Kellemen

    Dave,

    Thanks for alerting me to your post and inviting me to comment. Much appreciated. Regarding the introduction to my post that references two earlier posts, and your comments: in hindsight perhaps it would have been better for me to have focused on the “5 hallmarks.” While I’m sure you still would not agree with the posts themselves, I think reading them in context has less of a perception of an “us-against-them.” The posts themselves discuss belief and unbelief, faith and doubt, and thus I “owe” my own “issues” with faith/doubt and was applying a biblical/theological interpretation (obviously, simply my views) not simply “against” others, but also to myself and other believers/Christians.

    I think the other part that I could have communicated better is the focus on what I might call the “bullying” that I perceive is done by folks like Dawkins, et al. They are “free” to lodge those five hallmarks against Christians, but are Christians allowed to say, “Well, could this possibly at times be a case of “the pot calling the kettle black”? That really was the point. In your response and others on EDC, I don’t hear anyone saying, “Bob, while I don’t ‘own’ what you say about atheists, I do stand up with you against those who stereotype Christians and I applaud you for standing up against them.” I tried to make clear that I don’t think all those who doubt or disbelief are characterized by these five hallmarks, but I do think Dawkins and others are.

    Not wanting to take over your blog, I’ll try to briefly respond to your responses.

    But first…while I hear you and others saying, “Bob doesn’t get atheisms” (even though Bob was an atheist/agnostic raised in an unbelieving home and grapples honestly with doubt and faith),in not a single comment on any site have I heard someone attempt to “get believers.” Could I do more to “get atheisms.” Yep. Could others “get believers” more and could someone say, “I hear you saying ____, is this what you mean by that? Help me to understand where that is coming from?”

    1. Anger: When I read Hawkins, et al, I hear anger and bullying and attacking and stereotyping. I don’t mind reasoned argumentation. And I’m not sure either you or I could possibly discern in another person the motives behind this reaction. You list your reasons, which to me, even if true, do not require or support the at times vicious attacks.

    2. Anti-intellectual: It’s not drinking the cool aid but reading widely at least in an area where you are going to critique others, and reading not the lowest common denominator but the highest. Which goes to your second point: I think the outrageous mockery is unnecessary.

    3. Unloving: I think the examples you give are stereotypes and don’t take into account the billions of loving acts/attitudes by millions of Christians. That’s part of the point of the blog–recognize the good as well as critiquing the bad, and, admit that atheists, too, can be unloving toward Christians.

    4. Judgmentalism: I disagree on there being no atheistic worldview. Much more could be said there. And there were no “code words” for specific issues. But again, you’re going back to the atheistic critique of Christians. I was trying to raise some legitimate critiques of some fundamentalist atheists. Why is your post fine, but mine all wrong? Why is Hawkins ripping Christians right, but….?

    5. Weak: I’ve heard many use that arguments…”faith is a crutch.”

    Thanks for allowing me to comment. At least one other atheistic blog site did not allow my comments. Note that EDC is allowing every comment.

    Finally, someone was wondering if I earned a real degree? Yep. Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Kent State University.

    Bob

  • joe

    After 15 years of daily internet searching for people who hate me, BObs artical wins first place. He claims a PH.D but seems uneducated in critical thinking, and seems to lack an understanding of Naturalistic Philosophy and the Scientific Method and is unaware of basic atheist position. (No offense Bob). His conclusions about atheists are based upon feelings. I would assume a Ph.d would be well familiar with these fundamental things, even if he disagrees with it, and show more intellectual integrity/ honesty in his writings. I am wondering if he got his Ph.d at the same place Kent Hovid got is doctor degree.
    I am sure Bob is a smart guy, he seems intelligent enough probably smarter than me, but it would be interesting to read Dr. Bobs thesis, and know what his real level of education is.