The Dishonesty of (some) Theists

The Dishonesty of my Interactions with Theists

Recently, I have been called “closed-minded” in arguments with theists.  I have been told that I accept “real” science because it supports my worldview.  I have thick skin, the comments do not bother me as such.  What bothers me is that the particular theists that I am debating have the entire conversation upside down.  Let me explain.

I, and most of the other atheists that I interact with are very open-minded.  In fact, they are among the most open minded people that I know.  Just about every atheist that I interact with does something along the lines of the following:

  1. Listen to idea x
  2. Research, read, learn more about idea X  (This includes reading what the experts on idea X have to say.  What have their studies shown?  Does idea X have logical fallacies?  Is there proof? What are the critiques of that proof, etc).
  3. Either accept or reject idea X based on evidence/facts/sound logic

I realize that the above list simplifies things a bit, but I think you all get the point.  For me, and most of the other atheists that I interact with, evidence is of the utmost importance.

With this view, how can I be anything other than open-minded?  I will take whatever viewpoint the above process leads me towards.  I do not use my worldview to help form what I believe.  What I believe, through evidence, leads to my worldview.

I do not believe in non-supernatural evolution because I am an atheist.  One of the reasons I am an atheist is because I believe all life on this planet happened through non-supernatural evolution.  I would make the same argument for cosmology/origins of universe.  I do not believe that the universe lacks a supernatural creator because I am an atheist.  One of the reasons I am an atheist is because I believe we did not need a supernatural being to create it.

I was asked in an interview by Grundy who blogs at Deity Shmeity, he interviewed a bunch of atheist bloggers and it is well worth your checking out.  You can read them here.  In that interview he asked me what it would take for me to believe in god.  My answer was:

I would need to see some concrete proof to believe in a god. No proof that is theological, philosophical, or metaphysical would really suffice. Those are all old news and I do not see anything new coming from those fields. I do not see how science will ever uncover a god, but if it did, through the scientific method, through the rigors of peer review, that could do it. I would buy something as simple as a mass prayer actually working to heal someone. I suppose there is a good reason why religions always reject that challenge i.e.—have all Catholics pray to heal a blind guy. If that kind of thing actually worked, I would be willing to rethink my view. In truth, I do not see any of those things happening.

To expand on that idea.  I would accept any strong scientific and empirical proof.  By strong, I mean one that has been vetted—tested, repeatable, peer reviewed, falsifiable, etc.  I am quite open to the idea of believing in a god.  I have just not seen any credible evidence for doing so.  I would argue that my view is common to the vast majority of atheists that I interact with.  We follow where the evidence leads us.  (Please bear in mind that acceptance of a deity is no way an acceptance of any of the current religions, that is a separate topic).

I would further argue that most theists that I interact with are the ones who are closed-minded.  They reject many advances in knowledge from science because they do not fit into their religious worldview.  They bend over backwards in attempts to explain away the evidence.  The presupposition of a deity is so central to their worldview, they refuse to look at things differently.  (Again, before the theist commenters attack me, I am referring to the majority of theists that I interact with).  Where is the open-mindedness in that?  Where is the honesty in that?  Where is any concern for learning the truth about existence in that?

Many of these same theists will then point to theist scientists, who have largely been discredited by the vast majority of the scientific community to bolster their case.  We are told that the vast majority of scientists are either wrong or are in league conspiring against religion.  Where is the open-mindedness, honesty, and value to truth in pointing to failed  and/or conspiracy theories to support one’s case?  Yet, I (and other atheists) are often the ones accused of just those things at this point in the conversation.     It becomes a dead end. ..but not because of my closed-mindedness, but because of the theist’s refusal to think “outside the box” of the religion to which they subscribe.

I have already done that thinking.  I was a theist.  I have already done what I am asking them to do.  I do not find that closed-minded or dishonest at all.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.


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11 thoughts on “The Dishonesty of (some) Theists

  1. Loren Miller from Bedford, OH, United States

    For 30 years, I worked as a Field Service Engineer, whose job is (among other things) to go to the customer's site, examine, diagnose and correct any problem the customer might have reported in his equipment (and maybe discover some he didn't), and thereafter demonstrate to the customer's satisfaction that his device is now working properly. The position demands the attitude and approach of a pragmatist, at least as regards the approach toward whatever is being diagnosed, as well as that of a skeptic, as some problems and especially intermittent ones can be exceptionally difficult to resolve. The last thing any FSE wants to experience is that situation where he THINKS the problem has been fixed, returns to the airport to fly home, only to have his cell phone ring with the customer on the other end of the line, angrily screaming, "The Damned Thing DID IT AGAIN!" Frequently, though not always, taking a wide-angle view toward the problem and examining multiple possible contributors to that problem help to insure that all bases are covered and that the proposed solution is indeed THE solution.

    With my experience over the years and the pragmatic attitude which has come out of it has come a somewhat trite-but-true phrase which encapsulates my approach to troubleshooting, and to religion:

    If it works, USE IT;
    If it don't, LOSE IT.

    Religion has never really worked for me, in that its god is nowhere in evidence, the positive teachings of its holy books are frequently contradicted when one looks deeper into those books, and the supposed good that comes out of religion is in no ways dependent on religion for its discovery. Further, religion really has contributed nothing to our understanding of how the world works. Indeed, it has acted against such learning on multiple occasions, favoring doctrine and dogma over hard fact and proven theory. Worst of all, religion wants to treat itself as absolute and complete in itself, not needing change or growth in a world where change, growth and learning are happening all around us. As an engineer, I have to be open to new things: devices, technologies and techniques; otherwise, I get left behind technically. I keep an open mind, but not so open that the brains fall out. That two-sentence phrase above is my touchstone for such learning, and religion just doesn't cut the mustard.

    If it don't work, LOSE IT. Q.E.D.

    1. Steph S. from Kyle, TX, United States

      I agree Loren!
      Religion does not work – so lose it!
      I am so much better after I lost mine.

      Reason Being – I always enjoy your blogs and I love your website. I haven't been commenting as much as I should.
      But, I am grateful to your website and the information it brings.

  2. Hausdorff from Troy, MI, United States

    I think for many theists, they just can't imagine a worldview where something like God doesn't exist. Instead of trying to understand how you think about things, they try to figure out what you have replaced God with. If you don't believe in God you must believe in science, you must worship Darwin or whatever.

    It reminds me of something Matt Dillahunty said on the atheist experience. Someone accused him of being closed minded, and he replied that between the 2 of them, he was the only one who had changed his mind in the past. Seems that demonstrates that he is more open minded than her. (I suppose it could mean they are equally open minded if she considered atheism and rejected it, but that possibility seems unlikely)

    1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

      Not to derail the discussion but this isn't something that's restricted to theism, there are plenty of groups out there who cannot imagine a worldview where their particular belief doesn't exist. Anti-racists and anti-sexists are two groups which unfortunately come to mind. Racism and sexism are bugaboos that have to exist because their entire worldview is based on them being ever-present. There's no conceivable way they'll ever admit that sexism or racism are extinct, even in situations where it's clear they aren't happening.

      Fanatics exist in many beliefs and must be opposed in all of them.

    2. Undoctrinated from Willmar, MN, United States

      "If you don't believe in God you must believe in science, you must worship Darwin or whatever."

      I think far too many atheists either fail to comprehend or forget what it's like to yield one's intellect to faith based belief. For many, "sticking to your guns" is a validation of what you believe in. Getting past the "why would I switch beliefs" -especially for something that does not offer a "prize"- misconception can seem all but impossible. I've found Dr. Peter Boghossian’s emphasis on targeting the obvious risks and inherent flaws of faith to be very useful in some discussions I've had with theists.

      Ultimately, I think you said it perfectly, reasonbeing: "I do not use my worldview to help form what I believe. What I believe, through evidence, leads to my worldview." That states enough truth to get one quite far in this world (in my humble opinion).

      Thanks for the great discussion!

  3. matt greenberg from Norristown, PA, United States

    consider this interraction with my devout step-father from yesterday. in discussing the Akin flap, i pointed out that it's another example of extremism infiltrating the Republican party. his response, "I don't consider it an extreme view and isn't very controversial depending on your religious beliefs."

    if he can't admit, b/c of his religious views, that forcing a raped woman to carry the child to term is extreme then what the hell is extreme?


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