Why Some Religions Seek Atheist Approval

Greta Christina on how some religious believers, oddly, seek an atheist seal of approval. It makes a weird sort of sense.

Greta Christina, AlterNet, 14 Sep 2023: Opinion | Why religious believers are so desperate for the atheist seal of approval

Let this speak for itself for a few paragraphs:

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.

They really, really want atheists to agree. They want atheists to say, “No, of course, your beliefs aren’t like all those others — those other beliefs are crazy, but yours make sense.” Or they want atheists to say, “Wow, I hadn’t heard that one before — how fascinating and well thought-out!” Of course they understand why atheists object to all those other bad religions. They just don’t understand why we object to theirs. They get very hurt when we object to theirs. And they will spend a significant amount of time and energy trying to persuade us to stop objecting.


Why do they care what atheists think?

Let’s pause right here and speculate. I would guess it comes from the common idea that most people feel they are special, and their culture is special, and that their culture is possibly more important and significant than any other culture in the history of the world. Despite facts. You see this everywhere in MAGA, about the United States. Despite facts.

And so of course most religious believers think that their religion, obviously, is the one true religion, and all the others are false, and they presume that that the atheists — because they are rational thinkers? — would perceive that. Hubris.

The ironic thing about many of these psychological biases: they may not be strictly true, but believing them enhances survival. Group solidarity. Confidence about propagating children. The protocols of behavior that enhance survival, even if these beliefs are not actually true. This is the great conflict I’ve been dealing with in recent years, the difference between perceiving the real world as it is, and the human nature with its biases that enhances human survival. The is a deep issue, and it’s one that science fiction, at its best, occasionally illuminates.

Greta goes on, and in her second point touches on the idea of feeling special.

And I’ve reached two conclusions about why they’re doing it. They think atheists have higher standards than most believers, so our approval will mean more. And they don’t want to think their religion has anything in common with those other sucky religions… and getting atheists’ approval would let them keep on thinking that.

And she finishes:

Don’t get me wrong. We can work with you as allies. We don’t have to agree about everything to work together on issues we do agree on. We can work together on separation of church and state, stopping religiously inspired oppression and violence, etc. Many of us — heck, probably most of us — are even willing to temporarily set aside our differences while we work together on the stuff we have in common.

But if you ask us what we think of your religion… we’re going to tell you. If you visit our blogs to see what we think of your religion… you’re going to find out.

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.

How does this apply to science fiction? Because science fiction is ultimately about exploring the nature of reality, the perception of that reality, how change in humanity’s perception of reality affects everything.

Which means that all the religions, based on the perceptions of primitive tribes thousands of years ago, have been superseded, and can be dismissed.

This entry was posted in Psychology, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.