Firstly, I’d like to say that this is a stereotype created by religious individuals/groups. Secondly, I will admit stereotypes do exist for a reason. Arrogance is the key term here. Many atheists are blamed for being arrogant, but are they really? And if they are, is their behavior understandable and even justifiable?

Arrogance is found on both sides of the spectrum; the religious and the non. If a person claims to know the truth about something, they are automatically in jeopardy of being labeled as "arrogant." Divine or exclusive knowledge produces an air of arrogance as well as the claim some atheists make when they say they know there is no God, which is a non-provable, non-testable scientific claim, and is therefore an arrogant thing to say. Religionists make the claim that there is a God, which is also a non-provable, non-testable scientific claim, and is likewise an arrogant thing to say. I think the larger majority of atheists take the more rational approach to unprovable theories, though, and simply state their lack of belief in a deity. Since the larger majority of atheists (who are rationalists) don't profess to having any exceptional knowledge of God's non-existence, why are we all automatically getting the "arrogant" label from the rest of the world?

It is obvious that religion is something people take very personally, and due to its theoretical nature, it is a very touchy subject when placed under a microscope. When people make a scientific claim, such as “There IS a god,” it is only natural for other people to question it. Since religionists have no empirical evidence to support their claims and produce a reasonably acceptable answer, they view all criticism as personal attacks. Because they automatically feel threatened, they wrongly label the criticizer arrogant due to their own insecurity. I think we all know that questioning a belief does not make a person arrogant, nor does the desire for others to question their own beliefs or lack thereof. On the contrary, If anyone questions a scientist about his scientific theories, the scientist will simply answer to the best of his ability and accept criticism with open ears. This is because the objectives between the two groups of people are different. Religionists claim to already possess truth, which means there is very little reason to pursue it. Scientists do not claim this truth, and are always in pursuit of it.

And why do many atheists come across as angry? Well, if you're religious and reading this in an attempt to understand... imagine this: a world being dominated by a belief system you do not agree with or even believe is relevant to daily life, such as... everyone believes that it is virtuous to wear sneakers on Fridays. Politicians running for office will usually tack that onto their campaigns, in order to look more virtuous or "good" to the rest of their country... "I promise to lower taxes, pursue alternative energy methods, and yes... I do believe in wearing my sneakers on Friday." Can you see how irrelevant that is to being a good leader of a country? Yet the majority of people around you believe that to be a very important quality in a leader, and inherently view people who don't prioritize wearing their sneakers on Fridays as untrustworthy. After having something so obviously irrelevant force itself into all facets of life, it will wear on you, and the end result is that you'll probably have a pissed off reaction every time someone even mentions sneakers.

Views: 69

Comment by Melissa on July 10, 2009 at 9:28am
It was a very big typo on my part, because that isn't what I meant. I am an atheist by the definition of "does not believe in a supreme being." I do not, however, claim there is no god. The people who I was referring to that don't pick any real side of the fence to be on usually call themselves spiritualists, or go through life thinking all religions are on the same peaceful page.

I agree with everything you said, and will probably have to fix my post to reflect my intention more. Thanks.
Comment by Jeremy Roney on July 11, 2009 at 4:16am
We go against the grain; we're the 5% minority that does not believe and that is trapped in a sea of believers. Placing myself in a theist's shoes I can definitely see how even a lack of belief in a supreme being could be seen as arrogant since it goes against several thousand years of majority belief. I might even go so far as to admit that we are somewhat arrogant, but rightly so if one accepts that evidence is required for belief. However, we're certainly no more arrogant than most theists... on average we're probably less arrogant since many of us don't actually claim that we KNOW there is no god.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on July 11, 2009 at 5:29am
I'm open to the idea of a supreme being.
However no matter how much I WANT to believe... logic, reason and science has made it impossible for me to do so. If I'm to 'have faith' when faced with temptation and doubt, isn't it the supreme being's responsibility to instill me with faith? If I have none, either that is the will of said supreme being, or it isn't supreme at all. With either case, why should I change what I'm doing now?
Arrogance is assuming you know the mind of a deity you can barely fathom. Arrogance is daring to speak for a deity that is willfully silent.
The definition of asshole is therefore anyone that doesn't agree with you and presents arguments to the counter.

Where's my scarlet A?
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 12:21pm
Misty, I feel the same way. I am incapable of faith, as are all true atheists I'm sure. Evidence is required in order for me to even acknowledge a theory might be workable, and the case of religion is no different. IF there is a "supreme being," it would have created us with our religious deficiency. What does that say about this god? Not a whole lot.

I think humans are going through this transitionary stage right now thanks to the help of secular education, where we are realizing (slowly) that FAITH is unacceptable in every venue of life (faith wont fly an airplane or fuel your car, or keep the battery on your computer charged, etc). The more everyone's subconscious is catching on to this, the more sensitive on everyone is to confrontation on the surface. Maybe this is wishful thinking of me, but I am inclined to think that the seed of doubt has been planted in more people than we know, and religion will become the minority in just a few generations.
Comment by paddo on July 11, 2009 at 6:48pm
Guys I think your posts are absolutely spot-on.
The accusation of arrogance has been thrown at rational thinkers from Socrates on and probably before him. It is the last refuge of those who are slowly but surely losing the argument.
In my view there's nothing more arrogant than assuming the right to pollute the mind of a child with bigoted crap surrounding the petty middle-eastern politics of the bronze age. To use that same nonsense to imbue a sense of personal guilt in a child and then deny access to the light of reason is beyond arrogant: it's just fucking evil.
That is not something I've often seen an athiest do.
Thanks for the post Melissa. This one gets me on a bandwagon
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 6:57pm
Paddo, I agree. Most atheists actually want their kids to learn about the different religions... I for one know I want my future kids to be well rounded individuals.

I don't know if you've seen this or not, but your post and grievance reminded me of a Daniel Dennett video from Check it out if you enjoy that sort of thing:
Comment by Matthew on July 11, 2009 at 7:23pm
I agree with pretty much everything posted thus far but wanted to throw in a wrench. There are arrogant atheists out there, we're not all great and wise. I know that no one has proposed otherwise, but just thought I'd be "that guy" in this conversation.

There are precious few here on TA, but they are definitely about the place. I personally think that if all atheist communities were like TA, we wouldn't have it quite so rough in the "real" world. But maybe that's wishful thinking. And like you said in your post, Melissa, I think a lot of that arrogant/angry tone we sometimes take on is due to our generally despised position in society.

Am I making any sense here?
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 7:33pm
Yes you are. I know several atheists who are just as irrational and obnoxious as the Kent Hovinds of the world. People will be people, I guess. I think it inaccurate to claim that the majority of our <10% minority is that way, however. A title given more out of fear than merit.
Comment by Matthew on July 11, 2009 at 7:39pm
I completely agree. I'd like to continue playing devil's advocate, but find it difficult when everyone makes so much sense.
Comment by Melissa on July 11, 2009 at 7:42pm
haha... yes, I'm not really used to this level of "sense making" yet, but its very nice :)


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