Being Arrogant doesn’t mean you’re wrong

I’ve recently been enjoying Greta Christina’s rather elaborate and lengthy blog posts over at Alternet.org, and I’ve been REALLY enjoying the debate her articles seem to generate in the comment section. Unlike our safe atheist-only environment we’re accustomed to, Alternet seems to be populated by an eclectic mix of believers, atheists and agnostics.

I was particularly fascinated with some of the comments generated in her recent article entitled “Why Are Believers So Hostile Toward Atheists?”. While Greta argued atheists are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t, her readers appear to have jumped on the “atheists are arrogant” argument as a way of sidestepping the issues:

Atheists (of the herd variety) are typically condescending and arrogant. They often cite ways in which non-atheists are ill-educated, stupid, irrational or misinformed. All based on the implicit paradoxical faith of the herd-atheist’s belief in no god. Of course this is sensed as a hostile stance. Which, of course, induces a hostile response.
There’s something strange and paradoxical about atheism. It’s a faith system who’s sole purpose is to deny something that isn’t defined. It’s a faith system rather than a rational system because, the thing that is denied isn’t defined. If it’s not defined, then it can’t be subject to logic. For the sake of logic, “god” is just a meaningless sound until it’s defined. And there are uncountable definitions that could be made for “god”. And not all those possible definitions can be subject to logic (naturally, considering the scope of what the word “god” suggests). So, atheism is just another kind of religion.

So this person is arguing because a proper definition of God doesn’t exist, it’s irrational not to believe in it? See, this might be a clue to why people are condescending to you, buddy. Terrible arguments don’t make you a lot of friends on the Internet.

Whilst I am a non-believer, I actually find myself partly in agreement with you:

1. I have observed many Atheists in this place to be “condescending and arrogant”, and I’d add even darn right hostile and rude towards Theists.
2. I agree Atheism is a kind of “faith” in as much as it is a position that defies any hard evidence to support their oft claimed scientific position, only that those who support it have not witnessed anything that suggests to them there is a God.

Well, at least this guy is proof not every nonbeliever knows what the fuck they’re talking about. While I agree to the charge of hostility, I think the reader missed the point Greta was trying to make; mainly that our anger is directed at the way religionists treat their fellow believers, and not ourselves. As for the argument it’s “faith” to have a healthy skepticism towards an unfalsifiable and improvable God, I don’t know what will convince someone this profoundly confused that rejecting a poor hypothesis is NOT tantamount to faith.

I have been verbally assaulted on several forums by atheists who are offended by my faith. My response is always kind. It doesn’t seem to soften up their anger. I really don’t understand why the atheists are so afraid of Christians.

The simple answer to this question would include things like: The Inquisition, the Crusades, the Reconquista, and the French Wars of Religion to name a few. The more complex answer would be we fear anyone who bases their entire lives on The Bible or any other violent, misogynistic and xenophobic book. Beliefs can be scary things.

Greta, why are you making sweeping generalizations about a group of people? I would have thought that you of all people would know that sweeping generalizations are almost always false. I’ve met very happy, kind Christians and Believers who could care less about Atheists, and even those who are perfectly happy to socialize with their Atheist friends. And of course, I’ve met many rabid Atheists who are Hostile Toward Believers. Your arguments are getting worse all the time. Now you’ve degenerated into making sweeping generalizations about a group of people as an easy, simplistic way of portraying them in a bad light. I wonder: Why is Greta Christina so Hostile Toward Believers?

I know we treat the word “generalizing” as some kind of pariah, but it’s often really the only way to make statements about the world that have any merit. If I say “most human beings are friendly”, it’s a pretty broad generalization, and there are plenty of examples why this isn’t true. Still, we expect there to be exceptions to the rule. There are theists who aren’t hostile towards atheists and nonbelievers, but so what? Does it suddenly mean there’s no hostility to speak of?

You know, after reading all the comments on her blog posts, I hope she’s getting paid decently for this gig. The amount of baseless criticism for her innocuous article would test my fucking patience to its limits. What do you guys think?

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Comments (7)

  • avatar

    Men's Battle Plan

    “Unlike our safe atheist-only environment we’re accustomed to, Alternet seems to be populated by an eclectic mix of believers, atheists and agnostics.”

    I sometimes feel as though I’m the only believer on this site. It’s rare that I see other comments from a theists on here. I wonder why that is?

    “The amount of baseless criticism for her innocuous article would test my fucking patience to its limits. What do you guys think?”
    I see so many religious types that are just flat out rude and stupid so I can understand some of your frustration. I would be frustrated too if I were you. I cringe when I see some of the things that people say in the comments on usatoday’s religion section. It’s embarrassing. Of course, I say many stupid things too.

    I can see how many people call atheists arrogant. It’s very common to see atheists boasting about their intellect. But you can’t deny the facts I guess. For the most part however, most atheists are wonderful to talk to and I’ve really learned alot from them (except for this site, of course).

    It’s much easier and more effective to discuss a topic with someone who is nice and respectful. I think once you, Jake, get a little older, wiser, calmer and forgive the Christian cheerleader that wouldn’t go out with you in high school, you will start to have more respectful and efficient conversations.

  • avatar

    Greta Christina

    Yes, I’m getting paid decently for the gig. Thanks for asking. :-)

    And I particularly love the comment about how I’m making sweeping generalizations. In this piece in particular, I was even more careful than usual to say things like “Many believers” and “These believers,” and to talk about tropes among believers that are familiar or common — not universal. When I make a specific point of *not* generalizing and *not* accusing all believers of a certain behavior, and they still react defensively as if I was accusing them… it makes me wonder if my criticisms are cutting a little too close to home.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Greta, I think when a person gets angry about “generalizing” about others, it tends to be because they actually have the attributes being described. It would explain why we can never say anything without appearing like total douchebags, although I fully admit that I am one.

    MPB, There used to be another religious guy that would comment. His name was Ben, and he also used to listen to the show. I have no idea where he is now. It’s probably because I’m still a bit too obscure. Oh, and there were no Christian cheerleaders I wanted to ever date. I can’t really imagine myself dating anyone who believes. It would just be a nightmare to deal with.

  • avatar

    Jon

    It always blows my mind when I get accused of being ‘arrogant’ by a believer. Little do they know that behind the scenes, I’m the most self-depreciating guy this side of (the late, great) Peter Steele.

    If someone throws out the “Oh, you’re just being arrogant!” quip, I find it’s best just to change tack and ask them “Have I said anything that’s *factually* wrong?” That’s kind of the point, after all.

  • avatar

    Lizzie

    To be perfectly honest, I would say that theists should accept ‘generalisations’ as an occupational hazard of religion. When you congregate regularly with people with whom you claim to believe exactly the same things, surely you would expect to be classed as the same to an extent, due to the fact that you declare to the world that you are all ‘christians’ or ‘jews’ or whatever and thus labelling yourselves all-encompassingly, no? Atheists on the other hand, do not claim to all believe the same things as eachother apart from the fact that there is no ‘god’- WE HAVE NO DOCTRINE, for the millionth time! There is no such thing as a typical atheist, so it’s silly to make broad sweeping statements, whereas your 2 typical members of Catholicism for example almost certainly take the same stance on abortion, marriage, conflict, crime etc.

  • avatar

    Brandon (MBP)

    Lizzie, you’re right. To make a generalization about a group of people’s character is ridiculous since one can’t back up that type of claim with facts. If I say “most atheists are arrogant”, how can I prove it?

    And you are also correct that it’s easier to say that Catholics are typically going to be anti-abortionist because it’s backed up with stats on money given to anti-abortion groups, rallies, surveys, etc.

    But it’s also easy to say that atheists are going to agree on certain topics as well. for example, abortion. We could take surveys and conclude what atheists feel about abortion, correct?

    The simple fact that atheists don’t have a doctrine and most of the time can’t agree on what an atheist is, can be troubling to me. It’s easy to put a target on Christians and tell the world how evil they are because they have been well organized for almost 1700 years. Not so with atheists. But maybe that’s a good thing. I guess I don’t need to “target” anyone. haha.

  • avatar

    Brandon (MBP)

    Jake, I was totally kidding about the Christian cheerleader comment. But that would make a great plot for one of your cartoons.

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