We'll be appearing on the radio program All Sides with Ann Fisher to discuss Reasonable Atheism on Thursday, April 14 from 11-noon (Eastern).
We'll post a link to the podcast here once it is available.
Here it is.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
As we document in Reasonable Atheism, a good deal of social scientific data shows that religious believers in the United States tend to hold atheists in especially low regard. One study shows that Christians in the US would rather see their children marry Muslims than atheists. Given the dismal opinion US Christians tend to have of Muslims, this is a remarkable result.
But it is also an exceedingly odd result. Why should Christians see Muslims as different in any relevant respect from atheists? After all, Christians are committed to the thesis that Muslims deny the existence of God. For Christians, God is essentially three persons, and Jesus Christ is God. Muslims deny this. Therefore, although Muslims worship a God, the Christian must see them as worshiping a false God. A false God is not a kind of God, but no God at all. So, from the point of view of the Christian, the Muslim and the atheist are in the same boat: they both reject the existence of (the true) God.
One could go further and argue that, from the Christian perspective, if there is any important difference between the Muslim and the atheist at all, the Christian should regard the atheist as being in a better spiritual position than the Muslim. The Muslim worships a false God, and the atheist does not.
These considerations can be raised with respect to any two persons of different beliefs about religion, including two persons of different Christian denominations. For example, Protestants are theologically bound to regard Catholics as deeply, tragically mistaken about God. From the Protestant perspective, Catholics have misunderstood crucial facts about God, and they worship a God fitting that (mistaken) description. It is difficult to see how this differs from worshiping a false God.
And yet, typical religious believers in the US and elsewhere have resolved to adopt an attitude of toleration towards many of whose religious beliefs differ importantly from their own. Religious believers of even radically different theologies take themselves to be allies against the atheists. But why? It must be that from the perspective of a good majority of religious believers, idolatry isn’t so bad after all. That is, it seems that what counts for many religious believers is simply that people worship something. What is worshiped is, in the end, irrelevant
We expect that few religious believers would accept this result. The question for religious believers, then, is this: Is it possible to sustain your tolerant attitudes towards those who profess religions that differ from your own without having by force of logic to extend those same attitudes towards atheists?
We think the answer is no.