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Mar 10 2010

Atheist Meme of the Day: Atheism Is Not Narrow-Minded

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day, from my Facebook page. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

Most atheists say, “I don’t see any good evidence for God… but show me some good evidence, and I’ll change my mind.” So why are atheists seen as narrow-minded? Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

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  1. 1
    arensb.livejournal.com

    So why are atheists seen as narrow-minded?

    If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the theist sees someone who denies the self-evident existence of God (because God is obvious); who sees the marvelous complexity of the universe but refused to take the next step and admit that it was all created by a god; who has never had a religious experience because they refuse to open their heart; or who has had a religious experience, but is trying to rationalize it away because “God exists” is an unacceptable conclusion.
    Atheists say that there’s insufficient evidence for believing in gods. But HIV-deniers also claim that there’s insufficient evidence for believing that HIV causes AIDS. And birthers claim that there’s insufficient evidence that Obama is an American (they even claim that once they see the birth certificate, they’ll change their minds).

  2. 2
    Mandrellian

    And then you have theists who are so open-minded they’ll accept anything, such as the “self-evident” nature of a particular interpretation their particular god (for even in the “one true faith” the faithful have difficulty agreeing on many aspects of their one true god), without a lick of evidence outside their scriptures – all the while ignoring all those other “self-evident” gods that billions of others believe in, with no evidence outside their scriptures.
    As to your comparison between us and HIV deniers (of all the offensively stupid groups of idiots in the world): the difference between standard religious claims and the FACT that HIV causes AIDS, is that the AIDS link has been proven by evidence. Actual evidence, not a bunch of doctors saying “the link between HIV and AIDS is self-evident, we don’t need to show you the evidence.” You wouldn’t accept “this is self-evident” from a doctor; we don’t accept it from theologians.

  3. 3
    arensb.livejournal.com

    Mandrellian:
    The comparison to HIV deniers may not have been the best one I could have drawn. My apologies if I caused offense.
    In my first paragraph, I was thinking from the perspective of Joe Average Theist, who has what appears, to them, to be a reasonable amount of evidence for believing in God: transcendent religious experiences, the complexity of the world, the fact that most respected people believe in God, and so on. From that perspective, an atheist looks like someone who’s been presented with a pile of evidence and still says no, that’s not enough.
    In my second paragraph, I shifted to the perspective of an outsider. If you look at something like the Apollo moon landing hoax claim, or climate change, both sides of each argument have movies and books and slick web sites and FAQs and YouTube videos and whatnot. So how does the average person, who’s new to the argument, figure out which side is right?
    By examining the claims and evidence provided by each side, of course. But if you don’t have a good baloney detection kit, or can’t tell good evidence from bad, or well-supported arguments from bogus one, it’s easy to be fooled.
    Basically, all I was trying to do was to get inside of the head of someone claiming that atheists are close-minded. What sort of mindset would cause someone to say that? And that’s what I came up with.

  4. 4
    Lenoxus

    I think the “narrow-minded” accusation very often comes from the “religion as metaphor” folks.
    “It is my firm opinion that the emperor’s invisible, untouchable, unsensible clothes simply don’t exist.”
    “You don’t get it, do you? The clothes are just a metaphor. They symbolize the clothedness of humanity as a whole. You’re acting as though the question at hand is whether the emperor is literally naked. No one seriously believes he is clothed.”
    “So is the emperor literally naked? Say, if he were in the Arctic, would he shiver?”
    “The clothes don’t work that way, and only simple-minded folks like you and Pat Robertson think they should. The rest of us know better.”
    What’s really interesting to me is that the mentality behind definding religious claims is so pervasive, it occurs even when the messanger does not believe in the claims at hand.
    For instance, every Christmas special emphasizes the importance of believing in Santa, and paints the kids who try to work out his sled speed as narrow-minded (unless they work entirely within the assumption that he exists, in which case I guess they’re more like theologians, working out which proportion of Jesus was divine and which wasn’t). You couldn’t fault aliens watching the shows for assuming that Santa’s existence was a basic religious tenet for the Western world.
    Another example would be all those fantasy stories in which we are to mourn the loss of fairies to adulthood, and draw a dichotomy between childlike imagination / fairy belief, on the one hand, and the cold, dark, dank, narrow-minded world of adults, who are too obsessed with facts to see truth. Sheesh, that was too easy for me to write, I feel tainted. (Facts are truthful, truth is factual; facts are truthful, truth is factual. All better now.)
    I wonder how CS Lewis would have responded to the statement that Christianity is exactly as true as Narnia, both in literal and symbolic terms. After all, he felt his religion was “true myth” — so would he accept the notion that it was as factually false as talking lions?

  5. 5
    Nurse Ingrid

    Lenoxus, you are so right. Fuck that Peter Pan bullshit. Remember the movie “The Breakfast Club”? (which I love, BTW) When Ally Sheedy’s character says, “It’s unavoidable. It just happens to you. When you grow up, your heart dies.” When I was 16 I thought that was really profound. I still think the line is valid as something her character would genuinely say. But I now think the sentiment is utter juvenile crap. My atheist heart at 43 has never been more alive, thank you very much.

  6. 6
    vel

    we’re seen as narrow minded since we won’t accept the version of religon that the person in front of us has decided is the TRUTH. We dare to disagree with them and demand evidence. Love what Lenoxus wrong “”The clothes don’t work that way, and only simple-minded folks like you and Pat Robertson think they should. The rest of us know better.” when the person saying this is quite sure that the emperor exists with out any more evidence than those who claim that the clothes do. All fantasy, all the time.

  7. 7
    hoverfrog

    Atheism is a sceptical response to the question of gods. It really is a lack of credulity and if you equate open mindedness with credulity then atheists are closed minded. Then again anyone who isn’t a gullible idiot would be closed minded by this definition.
    Being open minded is to be receptive to new ideas or to new evidence for old ideas. It doesn’t and shouldn’t assume acceptance of these ideas, only that they will be given a fair hearing. Those who call us atheists closed minded make the mistake of assuming that their faith hasn’t been given a fair hearing, that it has been rejected without consideration. After all, how can something that they find so obvious be wrong, we must have dismissed it without consideration.
    Actually I’ve heard all the common arguments for gods and a lot of the less common ones and I’ve found them wanting in every case. By all means a theist may suggest a new and interesting argument and I think we’d all be interested in that.

  8. 8
    Mandrellian

    Sorry arensb – I’m afraid I took you literally there (I’ve seen exactly the same thing presented 100% seriously so many times I’ve lost count), so please consider me put right. Also, consider my flare-up a compliment of your ability to think like a theist – you hit it out of the park.

  9. 9
    John

    To put it in another way. The central tenant of religion is usually the existence of a divine, higher being(s).
    Some religious people will say that scientists or researchers are just choosing in a different system of beliefs.
    However the sociologist will be first to admit that the there is debate over the idea of the existence of society. And physicists will admit that dark matter may or may not be real and therefore gravity as we know it may or may not be real.
    This would seem to be very opposite to closed mindedness, no?
    Also religious people could be closed minded in that they are unwilling to consider chaos. That chaos and probability can bring about pattern more surely than the hand of any creator.

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