Accommodationist Atheists

Accommodating Religion: Why I am Against it

silencing dissentCephus, the blogger at Bitchspot has a great post up today on various types of apologists that he encounters.  Check it out if you regularly debate theists, it is a good read.  He uses the term “accommodationist” to describe one group of theists he often encounters.  He defines this term as, “These people aren’t necessarily theists, they’re people who are more concerned that everyone  gets along.  Truth isn’t important, people just ought to hug and sing kumbayah.”  While reading that definition I couldn’t help but think of atheist accommodationists.  For reasons that I want to flush out here, I find that they trouble me quite a bit.

I realized I was an atheist during my junior year of college, which was 1996.  From that time until about a year ago (Dec, 2011 to be exact) I would have considered myself an accommodationist atheist.  I was content to read about philosophy, theology, science, atheism, etc. but had little to no interest in discussing these topics with anyone other than close friends and family.  In truth, I did not really care what anyone else believed.  I was doing my thing, they could do theirs, and we would all be fine.  Or as Cephus wrote, we could all sing kumbayah.

The one difference between myself and Cephus’ definition is that I was interested in the truth.  I, however, did not care if you were interested in it.  I am telling you this so that you understand that I get the “accommodationist atheist”.  I was that guy for about  15 years.  Then things changed.

Another thing about me, I hate the over-dramatization of events.  I hate it.  I usually find it contrived and quite fictional.  Why I am telling you this?  Because when things changed for me, they changed in a big way–in the sort of over-dramatized way that I generally dislike.  Throughout the Presidential Primary season of 2011, the constant religious rhetoric became more than I could tolerate.  Watching people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum try to “out-god” each other was nauseating to me.  It was around that time that I started becoming a bit more vocal in my daily life and started to consider writing a blog.  Then, (cue the cheesiest music you can think of and hit play….now) Christopher Hitchens died.  Yep.  Super cheesy.  I know.  For some reason his death affected me.  I had always enjoyed his “piss and vinegar” type of polemic.  Not because it was so feisty, but because it was so intelligent and feisty at the same time.  I couldn’t help but think, well shoot, who is going to step in and fill his role in the fight against religious nonsense?  Who is talking about all of the injustice meted out at the hands of the religious?  Who is fighting for the rights of atheists?  Who is being the “check” on religious power and influence?  I knew Hitch wasn’t the only “famous” atheist ( I had read Stenger, Dawkins, Harris, and others), but I had no idea what was happening in the “world of atheism”.    Make no mistake about it, I never thought (or think) it would be me, I am just a chump from northern MN.  But it did encourage me to look online to see what people were saying about it.

Prior to this time, I had read a few atheist blogs sporadically.  Ironically, some of those blogs I no longer read.  However, I was unfamiliar with the world of “internet atheism”.  What I learned was that there were a ton of people taking up the fight against religious nonsense.  I decided that I wanted to join this “thing”. was born.

The accommodationist atheist bothers me because I was that guy.  He/She bothers me in the same way that devout Catholics bother me, because I was that guy too.  I have come to the point where I can absolutely not stay silent any longer in the face of religious power, influence, injustice, and privilege.  (Cue the cheesy music again) To use the cliché, “it is as if a switch has been flipped”.  One does not need to be a historian to understand what societies look like when religion plays a dominant role.  History is marred by the many stories of such societies.  Further, we need not look back into history to see this effect.  We only need to turn our eyes to certain Muslim countries to see the same story repeating itself.  We need to look no further than our own borders (here in the U.S.) to witness the power and words of many groups on the Christian Right.

The time for accommodating religion has passed.  I have learned that, as an atheist, choosing to do so is to turn a blind eye to the many atheists in this country who do not have that luxury.  In many parts of the U.S. being atheist can mean losing much, if not all, that is dear to you.  It can cost you your job and family.  It can cost you friends.  This is not acceptable.

Accommodating religious views implies not fighting against the various movements (in at least 7 states) to have creationism taught in schools as a viable alternative to evolution/biology.  This is not acceptable.

Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the fact that as an atheist, you cannot run for office in seven states.  This is not acceptable.

Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the possibility that your employer can reduce your health care coverage solely because of his/her religious views.  This is not acceptable.

Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the anachronistic view that many Christian groups have towards women.  This is not acceptable.

Accommodating religious views implies that you are okay with the continued discrimination of the LGBT community.  This is not acceptable.

Accommodating religious views that are inherently UN-accommodating of your own views really does not make much sense.  This is not acceptable.

This list could be endless and will vary from person to person.  However, accommodating religious views has gone on for far too long.  What does this mean?  It means that religions and religious views are very much at the forefront of public life.  Like any other idea privileged enough to be in this position, it too, must be open to criticism.  We do not hesitate to criticize ideas for being too liberal, too conservative, based on false evidence, absurd, etc. that come from any other source.  Why should religious ideas get a free pass?  They have the potential to affect us all as much as any other idea that can be legislated.  For this this reason alone, accommodating religion is not acceptable.

If you are an atheist who has zero interest in activism of any sort, fine. (I would ask that you reconsider, though).  However, if you choose to stand in the way of those who are interested in such things, that bothers me.  I realize that many of the accommodationist atheists do not like the Hitchens style of attacking religion.  That too is fine.  Not all vocal atheists are of that nature…just look to Hemant Mehta for a great example of this.  There are many ways to be an activist—the only way that is sure to fail is silence.  Accommodation too easily can become silence.  The notion that we can all just live together peaceably does not now, nor has it ever really reflected reality.  As Cephus pointed out, the truth matters.  Or at least it should.  It does to me.  If the term “accommodationist” applies to your atheism, I am curious to know why you feel the way you do.  I am curious to know why you are against speaking out against what many perceive as religious injustice and privilege.


Over the next few months I am going to be quite busy in offline “real” life.  This means that I am going to have less time for blogging and commenting on other blogs.  I wish that were not case, but we all know that “wish-thinking” doesn’t really get us anywhere.  With that in mind, I am going to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday format for new posts.  I also anticipate that most of my posts will be a bit shorter than what is usual for me.  It is not that I have am lacking things to say, rather, that I am lacking the time to think and write them out in a manner/level I would find acceptable.  You will still be able to catch me on Twitter fairly often in the evening (U.S. Central time).

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments.


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If you would like to share your story of how you became an atheist, please do that on my “Share your Atheism Story” forum.  Our stories may help to encourage others with similar feelings to know that life is more than just okay without god(s).

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18 thoughts on “Accommodationist Atheists

  1. The New Sith from Hazleton, PA, United States

    It didn't take long for me to become vocal about my atheism. I came to be of the opinion that it was a moral necessity to promote the truth as I understand it, and that this search for truth is the one thing that we all share in common. As a former christian, I know what that life is like, and what effects those beliefs can have on the mind of the believer. I understand the feeling of unworthiness, the sense of never being good enough, and the mind twisting bigotry that it can create in otherwise good hearted people. To leave people in that state of bondage and to do nothing to try to help them, I find to be morally reprehensible. I have seen that in recent years, new religions are popping up all around the world, and one that caught my attention was the Jedi religion. I decided to try to make my mark by mimicking this idea, and created The New Temple of the Sith. As Sith and Jedi oppose one another in the fictional world from which they hail, I based the ideas around science, rationality, philosophy and morality. If you have the time, I would surely appreciate it if you would take a look at it and give me your thoughts on it. I won't place my blog link on your site until I have received word from you that it is alright to do so, and I hope to hear from you as soon as you get the time. As for right now, I'm upvoting this page on reddit, and thank you for the time you've spent to articulate your ideas.
    My recent post A Message of Hope

    1. reasonbeing from Duluth, MN, United States Post author

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. Thanks also for leaving such a well thought out comment. The feelings that you had seem to be so common among those of us who have left one of the various Christian sects. As far as for linking your blog, feel free. I am all for supporting "getting the atheist word out there"! Heck I even have a "Promote Your Blog Page" above! I will try and check out your blog tonight. I hope it is wildly successful!

  2. NedLyttelton from Toronto, ON, Canada

    Thank you for this article. It is the clearest.indictment of accommodationism that i have seen.

    I was an Anglican priest until I discovered that I was an atheist. Since then I have been living with a second-generation atheist for thirty years, and have spent a lot of that time trying to explain to her that theism is not rational, a concept that always eludes her. But I was an accommodationist, live and let live, until the 2011 US. Presidential campaign, during which I began to realize how dangerous theism is. What I didn't understand was the role of moderate theists (Christian and Muslim in particular) in tacitly supporting and perpetuating the extremists.. I used to get into discussions in which I was silenced by accusations of the Straw Man fallacy "You're talking about the fundamentalists. Of course they're crazy. That's not what most Christians/Muslims believe" Then I read The End of Faiith by Sam Harris, in which he is very clear about the role of moderates, e.g. in choosing which bits of the Bible (or Qu'ran) to subscribe to while conveniently ignoring the unacceptable parts. That''s when my "switch was flipped".. Like you, I was affected by Hitch's death. And in order to develop my thinking I read Dawkins and Dennett and more Harris, and started to follow atheists like you, Ricky Gervais, GodlessSpellchecker and others on Twitter.

    My personal life is such that at the moment I have little time for blogging or joining groups or activism, but I am getting clearer and more vocal all the time, and I am being radicalized more and more by what I read, Thank you for contributing to this.

    1. reasonbeing from Duluth, MN, United States Post author

      You're welcome and thank you for stopping by Ned. Thanks also for having the courage to be open about your atheism. I cannot imagine how hard your journey was from Minister to atheism. My hat is off to you. I have written a few posts on the role of moderate theists. They were a while ago, if you like, I can dig them up and link them for you. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a comment. I greatly appreciate it. If you don't mind my asking what is your Twitter name?

  3. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

    A lot of accomodationists do have their own beliefs about "truth", they just feel that no one ought to be able to push their own beliefs on others. I find that to be generally true, both directed at atheists and theists, where they want no proselytizing on either side because it might make someone unhappy. Now personally, I find that whole idea to be ridiculous, if no one was ever allowed to disagree, if no ideas were ever challenged, if reality and fact and truth were not the arbiters of validity, then we might as well all pack it in, there's no point even getting up in the morning because there's no chance of anything ever getting better.

    So while I am not an activist in the strictest sense of the word, I am not going to keep my mouth shut when I find something ridiculous, whether it's political or religious or social, I am going to speak my mind on it and expect others to be able to do the same. If we can't do that, how can we ever hope to come to some kind of rational, logical understanding?
    My recent post Common Apologist Types

  4. Pluto Animus from Denver, CO, United States

    State Constitutional prohibitions on atheists holding public office are enforceable, having been ruled Unconstitutional in the the Torcaso decision of 1962.

      1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

        In most states, the only way to get the laws off the books officially is to challenge them and the only way to challenge them is to be held accountable to one. Since they are not enforced, no one is ever charged under the law, hence they cannot challenge the validity of the law. It's where you get all the ridiculous laws against riding goats on Sunday wearing a wig, etc.
        My recent post Top Gear U.S.A. Sucks Monkey Balls

  5. Loren Miller from Bedford, OH, United States

    I have absolutely ZERO intention of accommodating someone whose words and/or actions, directly or indirectly, may DIS-accommodate me or mine or those I care about, or impact the government in such a way as to have the same effect.

    'Nuff said.

  6. Pingback: The Christian’s Guide to Ex-Christians: False Compromises. | Roll to Disbelieve from San Francisco, CA, United States

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