There's a class of scientist (and non-scientist) that pursues the atheism argument religiously. It seems that their ears are closed to reasoned argument. They are typically, in all other spheres of thinking, high-intellect, scientifically-minded individuals, and sure, they have reasoned arguments for their side of the argument, but on this particular subject, when it comes to considering counterargument, they seem to set out with unquestionable faith that a theist's position cannot possibly be a result of superior argument, intellect or understanding. Presented with strong arguments, they may become emotional or hostile, rather than allowing evidence or strength of argument to decide the matter.

I think of these people as "religiously atheist" which for me exposes the paradox of their state. Is this a fair or accurate description? By that, I am asking if, in your experience this is a fair stereotype of a significant number of people?

  • 1
    You are conflating "religious" with "dogmatic".
    – Dave
    Jul 18, 2016 at 15:07
  • @Dave Do you not think they're to some degree synonyms? Religion in many ways is dogmatic. I think it pays to distinguish carefully between religion and theism, which are not the same thing. Religion is frequently dogmatic while the theism we find among scientists and philosophers is much less likely to be so. Jul 18, 2016 at 15:29
  • Many become equally emotional or hostile on behalf of their scientific positions when they think those affect a broad range of people negatively: Watch Bill Nye, or Carl Sagan for that matter, argue about global warming in a non-reliigious setting. Emotionality is not an alternative to allowing evidence or strength of argument decide the matter, it is simply true that some arguments evoke passion. You can do both -- using rhetoric in the service of logic is not deception.
    – user9166
    Jul 18, 2016 at 15:51
  • @jobermark to your first comment I agree, but a true scientist's highest aspiration is to find the truth, regardless of what it is and as such will find beauty in an argument regardless of whether it supports theism or atheism. I would share Call Sagan's emotions resulting from somebody's deluded refusal to accept the truth, but that is different to the joy he and I alike would feel if we were presented with a winning argument that global warming is not a threat to mankind. I argue that the "religious atheists" do not share this scientific desire to seek out the truth, whatever it may be. Jul 18, 2016 at 16:44
  • 1
    But that is not a reasonable question for this site. Philosophy does not deal in fair stereotypes of current affairs. If that is really the heart of your question, this should be closed.
    – user9166
    Jul 18, 2016 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


Religion (religious) is a big multi-valenced word, bigger than even "game". To assert "person (or group X) is behaving religiously" without additional narrowing context will (almost certainty) leave quite a bit of ambiguity both in terms of what aspects of religion are relevant, and which aspects of his/her/their behaviors are relevant.

That being said, there are ways that you could make this characterization stick -- by establishing the appropriate narrowing criteria. If you're focused on the dogmatism of religion, and find that an anti-religious person has a mirror image form of dogmatism, then calling out this similarity, and referring to the second person's position as religious, can make sense.

I suspect that you have in your mind exactly this type of more specific interpretation but that doesn't ensure that everyone else will parse the world in the same way that you have.

Overall, I'm advocating for a more detailed, nuanced, analysis of the situation rather than trying to paint with a broad brush. If you don't narrow your focus, then you can look at a variety of personality traits, degree of dogmatism, a desire/need to achieve social validation of one's worldview, an urge to bring others into line with your (presumably correct) worldview... and you'll find that any ideological group has a mix of them. These are not aspects of religion (or politics or social class...) these are aspects of human nature. In the end, that is why you can find "religion" in amongst the atheists, they're all just people doing what people do.

  • 1
    thanks nice answer. What I consider the toxic atheism of scientists like Richard Dawkins, I find a little strange and unscientific, obsessive even. If that clarifies what I mean by 'religious'. Perhaps dogmatic would have been a more accurate word. Jul 18, 2016 at 19:22

The impression that the passionate are intractable is just prejudice, especially in this case.

Many religious atheists have come around to the side of Faith, e.g. C.S. Lewis. And at least as many ardent preachers have become atheists. They may argue vehemently, but to psychically predict they will not accept a counterargument, based upon their temperament, is just bias.

Your question itself it duplicates About atheism and secularism and what exactly they are, and I will stick by my answer there -- there are lots of different bases for atheism, and the vast majority of them are actually religious in nature, or the holders would be more often be agnostic instead of atheist. So, of course, most adherents will be religious about their atheism. In being religious they do not necessarily become illogical, or unscientific.

One primary difference in such debates is that the theists often openly admit they will not be swayed (right up until the point where they get swayed). You seem to be claiming that the more scientifically oriented among the atheists are hypocritical in pretending otherwise about themselves.

But consider this from a Kuhnian perspective. Many individual scientists, like the institution of science as a whole, only consider paradigm shifts when they are warranted. And there is no objective standard for what would be warranted.

Until then they remain devoted to the set of principles from which their success to date has proceeded. Such people can rapidly and dramatically reverse positions, but will seldom approach middle-ground. But this is as scientific an approach as any.

The distinction is where one suspends decisions in the light of new data, not whether. If it were not part of science to be adamant, theories would change too often to be tested.

  • When you say 'the religious openly admit...' do you mean the religious atheists as well? I'm not sure if you're conflating religious with theist. Jul 18, 2016 at 19:15
  • Edited this out
    – user9166
    Jul 18, 2016 at 20:09
  • I think 'the religious openly admit...' was more accurate, as the religious atheists openly admit nothing would persuade them. Jul 18, 2016 at 20:13
  • It would be right, but in my experience it is really not true. So I pulled it out. Most atheists pretend theirs is just a philosophical or logical position and that they could have been religious if religion made sense, meaning they might be reconverted if it started to do so. But they do not own up to the fact that they are generally motivated more by reaction against religion's history and effects than about the illogic of God-talk. They say the real motivation is secondary, but you can tell otherwise
    – user9166
    Jul 19, 2016 at 15:12
  • 1
    I think, between the answer and the comment above, I just said that.
    – user9166
    Jul 19, 2016 at 20:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .