Understanding the reasons for religious arguments

I’m beginning to understand intellectually debating religion is a giant waste of time. The blog Atheist Revolution has an interesting article on the types of ‘religious trolls’ who frequently comment in atheist’s sites and the tactics they use. However, there’s something important here that is not being mentioned: what exactly is their motivation?

It’s easy to dismiss trolls as simple troublemakers who want to start flame wars with atheists, but that’s not the whole answer. Sure, there are bound to be a few shit disturbers, but for the most part, I’ve always found that although these religious ‘trolls’ were unusually insistent and persistent, the motivation behind their actions are, to them at least, genuine and pure.

Imagine I want to convince you my favorite restaurant is simply the best place to get fried noodles with chicken (it is, but that’s not the point). I would try any tactic available to convince you. Did you know they make their own noodles there? That the business is owned by a small family who lives in the same building as their restaurant, and work 15 hour days? Sure, their cooking equipment is primitive and the service is slow, but I promise you the chicken is the tastiest around!

Ultimately, there’s an element of personal taste that enters the equation I cannot account for. Maybe you don’t like chicken. Maybe you prefer fancy places with lounge music. Whatever the reason, the reason behind me telling you about my restaurant are genuinely kind; I want you to experience the same pleasure and satisfaction I do. Religious people share this same need to proselytize; many feel their lives are richer for believing, and cannot understand why anyone would choose to live a life without God. The details of how the arguments unfold masks a far more primitive need every human being shares: the need to tell others about something good. I personally love my favorite restaurant specifically because I share it with others. This need is part of the reason we are a social species. Like the lion’s pride that learns to share for the good of the group, so have we learned to share those experiences that make us more healthy, and more happy. Whether or not religion does this is irrelevant; it’s important only that some people FEEL it is in order for it to be true to them. Everything they do can be explained from that one simple need.

So rather than worry about the kinds of arguments I can use to convince them on the logical truth of my ideas, I have come to see the reason I am an active atheist is I want to share how profound and incredible the realization of a godless universe is. In that sense, I am no different from my Christian counterpart, with the exception I have perhaps the stronger arguments. Ultimately though, if I am blinded by my emotional attachment to an idea, I may be unable to see why it may not be universally appealing to others. The only value I can hope to instill on others, therefore, is that one always has to be willing to question their assumptions. This is something very few religious people do, and the vindication I have in my unbelief is I will always try and maintain an open mind.

Comments (5)

  • avatar


    I like this vid from Penn of ‘Penn & Teller.’ Along the same lines as your post. Enjoy 🙂


  • avatar


    (That video was pretty impressive. Great find!)

    I think Christians’ intentions are generally sound; clearly they want to ‘save’ the people they’re preaching to.

    My issue is when they go about it the wrong way.

    Most debates about religion, especially ones online, begin when the religious side assaults science or the atheist’s morality. This doesn’t always have anything to do with ‘good intentions.’

    That is, the conversation may begin with, “Evolution has no evidence whatsoever!” or “If there’s no god, there’s no way to distinguish right and wrong.” Obviously, these aren’t the best opening statements when your goal is truth-giving peace.

    How am I supposed to recognise someone as being well-meaning when they start things off by trying to attack science or question my morality?

    I’m all for people trying to spread truth. but when truth comes in the form of Irreducible Complexity, Intelligent Design, how atheists have committed more atrocities, how atheists lack morality, no transitional fossils, anecdotes of miracles, and so on– well, I that’s ‘truth’ I can do without.

  • avatar


    You make some good points that both Atheists and Christians want to convert people to their cause/belief. Yet what is ultimately the deciding point is that arguably and most convincing point is that atheists are the ones who question themselves and their beliefs the most. A life unexamined is not worth living. It is only through critical self evaluations and doubts about the world about them can people come to logical and reasonable conclusions that are closer to the elusive “truth” than Christians can as they are bound by doctrine and an artificial “being”.

  • avatar

    joe Botelho

    Debate with religous people is for the most part a waste of time. The staunch believer will not change there minds with all the evidence in the world. Athiests who want to rid the world of religon need to focous on the fence sitters and college/university students of the world. These people’s worlds will not colapse when they finally are honest with themselves about there god.

    These “trolls” are actually a great tool for new atheists to hone there arguments and build further cofidence in there athiesm. They also do make for a good laugh when your felling down.
    As a side note I had a ex who was a super catholic and she was the best lay ever. my friends and i have noticed that most religous chicks are fucking awesome in the sack.
    I only say this because my wife does not go to this site.

  • avatar


    Thanks for this great post. However, I think I disagree with you on fundie motivations. When I was immersed in the lunacy of a fundamentalist church, I seem to remember when they would describe hell, and say something along the lines of: “I would crawl hand-and-knee across the nation on broken glass if doing so would save just one person from the torture of hell.” Fundies are also told, “If you have the chance to save one person and you choose not to, their blood is on your hands and you will be judged by God.” As you can see, wacky ministers play to the “kind and compassionate” nature of Christian philosophy, while at the same time manipulating followers through guilt and fear.

    Guilt and fear notwithstanding, are the motives still kind and genuine? Can someone who has been so offensively manipulated still be absolutely sincere in his desire to convert you? Sure, they can be, but the fact is that fundies don’t care whether or not the idea of believing in their “one true god” and their “one true religion” is intellectually satisfying or universally appealing. They’ve been conditioned to: a) believe in the Christian god and in their sect of the Christian religion, b) assume that god judges based only by belief and not by deed, and c) be so absolutely terrified of hell that they’re on this mission — this crusade if you will — to “save” the immortal souls of those around them.

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