Every once in a while I come across something online that makes me stop and think, “I wish I’d thought of that!” Tonight, while perusing some of the posts on various facebook groups, my eyes snagged on a post titled “A note to people who consider atheists close-minded” by Ryan at Hammer the Gods. I don’t usually do this, but I asked permission to post his writing on my blog for my readers to see because Ryan, (to quote one of my favorite bands of all time) you took the words right out of my mouth.
Without further ado…
A note to people who consider atheists “closed minded” for not agreeing with their religious claims – or claims regarding the existence of god(s):
Before you think atheists are closed minded or argue in favor of your religious beliefs, please carefully consider the following.
Just because someone does not agree with unsupported conclusions regarding religious claims and the existence of god(s), does not necessarily mean they are closed minded. You reject other gods and religious claims as unsupported, does that necessarily make you closed minded?
Many if not most atheists are former believers, proving we are open-minded enough to consider new evidence and argumentation regarding religious claims and the existence of god(s). If we weren’t, we would still be believers. I think it’s safe to say, most if not all atheists would acknowledge the existence of god(s), if that conclusion were supported by evidence and argumentation.
(Worshipping said god(s) if it/they were confirmed to exist, is a different topic altogether; but I digress.)
The thing is, you don’t have evidence supporting the existence of god(s) – and your arguments are based on logical fallacies and cognitive biases. Additionally, depending on the claim/belief, there is evidence clearly demonstrating those claims/beliefs to be inaccurate “descriptions” of reality.
Rejecting claims which are unsupported by evidence and sound, valid logic — at least until those claims are are supported by evidence and sound, valid logic — is not closed minded – it’s an objective, rational, intellectually honest approach to understanding, evaluating and verifying claims – before one assimilates those claims into their personal model of reality.
That is to say, it’s what rational people do when they care if their personal model of reality is congruent with our demonstrable, shared reality.
If I claimed “your grandmother robbed a bank in California on a given date and time”, a considerably less extraordinary claim than “god exists (and …)” to be sure, you would rightfully reject such a claim unless and until you were presented with evidence and argumentation supporting it. It would not be closed minded for you to do so, and it would be silly of me to suggest that you should accept it as true, “on faith.”
Believing claims which are unsupported by evidence and sound, valid logic, aka “faith-based” claims, is the most expedient route to assimilating likely false, and possibly harmful and dangerous claims about reality into one’s personal model of reality.
Conversely, if you are unwilling to honestly consider evidence and argumentation which disconfirms your beliefs — about the existence of god(s) and/or surrounding religious claims — it can accurately be said that you are the closed minded one.
If I claimed “your grandmother robbed a bank in California on a given date and time”, and you had evidence demonstrating she was in New York at the time of the robbery, it would be closed minded of me to ignore that evidence – and delusional of me to persist in believing and claiming that your grandmother robbed the bank.
Furthermore, it would be insane for me to suggest that people should ignore the evidence and consider your grandmother a bank robber, “on faith.”
Likewise, if you cling to faith-based claims/beliefs regarding the nature of reality, in the face of disconfirming evidence and/or refuting argumentation, those claims/beliefs can and should be dismissed as delusional – not based on reality.
For example, if you continue to deny evolution, continue to believe there was a global flood, or continue to believe that the earth is six-thousand to ten-thousand years old, after being presented with mountains of evidence which clearly demonstrate you are mistaken, you are closed minded and your beliefs are demonstrably delusional.
Furthermore, it would be insane for you to suggest that people should believe you are not mistaken, “on faith.”
It is also important to consider not just /what/ you believe, but /why/ you believe it. Saying that you believe X, Y or Z because “Jesus is god”, “Mohammed is Allah’s prophet”, “it says so in the Bible (Qur’an, etc.)” is still not addressing /why/ you believe what you believe.
Please ask yourself the following questions, and consider the following points…
Why is it that you believe “Jesus is god”, “Mohammed is Allah’s prophet”; X, Y, Z religious claim is “true”, or that a given religious text is an accurate “description” of reality?
As we have seen, “faith” is the express route to delusion and has no “reality check.”
Among others, tradition, custom, peer pressure, majority opinion, anecdote, an authority figure said it was true, and “because I was raised to believe it” are also not valid reasons to accept something as true.
What, if any, evidence or argumentation would it take for you to come to a different conclusion regarding your religious beliefs/claims?
If your answer is “nothing could change my conclusion”, you have just conceded that your religious beliefs are not based in reality (likely delusional), that you don’t care if your claims/beliefs are “true”, that you are closed minded, and that you don’t care if your personal model of reality is accurate.
If that is your position, you should stop arguing that “atheists are closed minded”, and that those claims/beliefs are “true”.
To do otherwise is extremely hypocritical, dishonest, dubious at best, and nefarious at worst.
“Do I have unbiased evidence supporting this claim/belief?”
If the answer is “no”, your belief/claim is very likely delusional, and arguing that that belief/claim is “true”, is dishonest, at best. I recommend looking for confirming /and/ disconfirming evidence /before/ advancing your argument. If you still can’t find unbiased evidence supporting your claim/belief, you should stop arguing in favor of it, and consider changing your conclusion.
“Have I made this argument/claim before?”
If yes, was it shown to contain logical fallacies and/or cognitive biases?
If yes, be intellectually honest and stop making that claim or using that argument.
Was it shown to be unsupported by unbiased, verifiable evidence or contradicted by evidence?
If yes, be intellectually honest and stop making that claim or using that argument – at least until you find evidence to support it.
To do otherwise, not only makes you intellectually dishonest, it makes your religion and your religious beliefs seem delusional.
In closing, atheists are generally very open-minded people, and are willing and able to change their position – given unbiased, verifiable evidence and sound, valid logic – so please don’t mistake the rejection of unsubstantiated and/or fallacious claims/beliefs for “being closed minded”.
Thank you for letting me share this. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been told that I am close-minded or biased against religion. I, who have read multiple versions of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and several other religious texts front to back. I, who have spent countless hours poring over the claims of believers from all the dozens of sects I have encountered in my life. I, who have been forced to change my world views many times because of new evidence.
It’s exhausting trying to reason with someone who is unreasonable. I admire folks like Ryan, because he takes the time to enumerate fallacies and irrational claims. When I grow up, I want to be eloquent like that. Until then, I’ll keep blogging to myself and agreeing with the things brilliant people say.
Thanks for stopping in. Check back next week for an update on our house!