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poisonedantidote's avatar

Would atheists and theists get along better if that where the only difference?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21638points) October 21st, 2010

What am I talking about here exactly, well…

To be an atheist, there is only one requirement, no belief in gods. other than that, there are none. When someone tells you they are an atheist, all you can tell about that person is that they dont believe in a god. likewise, when someone tells you they are a theist, all you can really say about that person, is that they very most likely do believe in a god, as well as following a specific religion.

However, that is not really the only difference is it. If you are an atheist, even though it is not a requirement of any kind, there are trends and patterns for how atheists think. for example, even though there are plenty of conservative atheists, at the moment at least, there seems to be a much higher number of liberal atheists. likewise, there seem to be a lot of conservative theists.

When someone tells you they are an atheist, you can only really say for certain that they dont believe in a god. and while it would be wrong to make any other assumptions, you can kind of, if not assume, suspect. that perhaps they are also enclined not to believe in ghosts, conspiracy theories, they they are more likely to believe in alien life, that they are maybe liberal, that they are probably in favor of legalizing cannabis, in favor of euthanasia, and a whole load of other things. and while you would be making an assumption and a generalization, you probably would be right.

So, do you think, that there would therefore perhaps be less friction among those who believe and those who dont, if that where the one and only difference?

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43 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

Note: im not suggesting everyone be either liberal or conservative, etc..

when i talk of atheism and theism being the only difference, im actually talking about what if these other trends where more diversified. e.g. if there where even more conservative atheists, and even more liberal theists.

josie's avatar

For starters, there really is not that much difference. Modern political liberals who are atheists still believe you should serve a god-in their case it is the political State instead of the God of Abraham. The modern political conservatives who are theists, believe you should serve God and not the State. One god is mystical, the other is secular, but they are gods none the less. Each requires sacrifice, each is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.

JLeslie's avatar

Interesting. I actually do not make all of the assumptions you list according to whether someone is an atheist or a theist, I associate it more with whether a person is religious or not, and then I break it down by religion even further, but the belief in God does not determing what I assume about someone. However, I do think your list probably pans out statsically for atheists, but I think theists the generalizations wouldn’t. For instance, all of my Catholic friends who believe in God, are firmly in favor of separation of church and state, some are dems, some are republicans, some are pro-choice, some are pro-life. The Baptists I know seem to be more monolithic on many of the points you make, but African American Baptists take a departure and tend to vote with the liberals even though they are to the right on many social issues.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I think you’re asking one word and one facet of a person’s philosophy to carry a lot of unwarranted weight. There are a whole mess of church-going, Bible-carrying true believers who are as liberal as you will find anywhere. And I know a lot of atheists—aside from myself—whose political ideology leans more libertarian than liberal—but I know a lot of ‘conservative’ atheists, too.

No. Maybe you need to widen your circle of friends, but I try to make none of the assumptions that you seem to. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with @josie‘s statement that “modern political liberals who are atheists still believe you should serve… the State”, but I think it’s a more nearly correct statement than your assumptions.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Just a reminder here, im not making any assumptions based on a persons theism or atheism, however i am suggesting you can suspect certain things of them. assuming would be jumping to a conclusion, suspecting would be allowing for an unexpected conclusion.

Blackberry's avatar

I would get along better with theists if the had more control over their blind faith and didn’t put so much importance on what they think their god thinks.

I think most atheists and theists do get along, but when we get into people with more fundamental beliefs, that’s when it is hard to see past their childish stupidity.

crazyivan's avatar

@josie C’mon, really? You think all those liberal hippies out there are preaching allegiance to the state? In my experience that type of “My country, right or wrong” stuff is more the domain of conservatives than liberals.

and @CyanoticWasp No reason to beat up on @poisonedantidote… the statistics are on his side. I think the problem is the direction from which this question is coming.

The reason some people are theistic and some atheists is because of the way they were brought up, their education, their circle of friends, their life experiences, etc. Those are also the things that tend to shape our political beliefs and various other aspects of our lives. It is reasonable to assume that any strongly held belief will correlate with a number of other strongly held beliefs.

I think the heart of the issue is rationalism vs. faith. That is the mental dichotomy that poisonedantidote is really hitting on here, more than atheism and theism. If you look at a guy like Joe Rogan or Bill Maher, both are atheists, but they’re far from rationalists. They don’t believe in God because the dominant influences around them told them not to. They also told them a bunch of wacky nonsense about health products and they swallowed that with no rational thought as well.

In places like Fluther, the most common frame for this rationalist v. faith argument to manifest itself in is discussions of religion since rationalism doesn’t favor one political view. This leads a lot of people whose primary human interaction happens online to label the rationalist v. faith argument as one between atheists and theists, but it is much deeper than that.

josie's avatar

My country right or wrong, and serving the State are two different things. My country right or wrong is a sort of personal perspective that some people take, and others do not, and life goes on.It has little to do with being a nameless cog in the State’s civil machinery. . The idea of the State as a secular god implies that we are all subordinate to the whims of the state. Thus, we are compelled to divert a certain amount of our energy to the good of the State, whether we want to or not. We are part of the State’s personal collective, much in the same way that people regard themselves as sheep in God’s flock. The liberal hippies that you mention, it least to extent that I understand the concept liberal hippie, think that the wealth product of individuals is actually the collective property of the State, and must be rendered to and distributed by the State. Much in the same way that theists imagine that there is no property since God owns everything. Anyway, there ya go.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I see what you’re saying, but I don’t believe so, no. I think the battle is exclusively about a belief in god/absence of god. I’ve said this before, but I truly believe it is the root of the issue – those beliefs are extremely personal. Most believers will tell you that their relationship with god is personal, amazing, other-worldly, spiritual. Most non-believers will tell you that they find it so absurd that people can still believe in a god that it is just ridiculous that nonbelievers are having their concepts challenged. When, seemingly to them (us), ours is the more logical route. In either case, we all want to be right. For the most part we really believe that we are right, so therein lies plenty of fuel for this sort of tug of war to exist.

JLeslie's avatar

How about this…where I live now, none of my new friends know I am an atheist, so they don’t know to make any of these assumptions, and we all get along. I have been part of some political discussions, they know I tend to be liberal, and that does dissapoint some people, but I am conservative leaning on some issues, but still, I don’t think any of them would ever guess I was an atheist. It doesn’t occur to them, because they are so religious, and I guess have a certain idea of how atheists are? Add to it eventually they usually come to find out I am Jewish, and most Christians down here in the bible belt are completely clueless to the fact that a large percentage of Jews are atheists. The thing is, if they are fine being friends with me, and then find out I am an atheist and that changes everything, that is their problem, I am still the same person, if they suddenly think I am a bad person, or different than what they had thought previously because they learn I am an atheist, that is prejudice, or I don’t know what to call it.

@theonlyneffe it is ironic to me when someone says their relationship with God is personal, and then the same person thinks everyone should believe like them and they want to inject religion into everything. I am not saying all people who say that line are like that, I’m just saying enough are.

iamthemob's avatar

I think that a lot of the conflict are based on, as @TheOnlyNeffie points to, a fact that attempting to understand what it means not to believe in a god as well as to believe in a god it requires assumptions that immediately create frictions in the interactions. But the friction generally occurs when there is at least one side that is a very particular kind of atheist or theist…with a personal investment in the reasons why or how they’ve aligned themselves with that group. It’s there when people bring their own baggage.

Because when you look at the basics – theists of a particular belief and atheists of a particular belief just want the right not to be converted or argued with about whether they should believe what they do. Further, a belief in god is unfalsifiable, as is a belief that there is no god. There isn’t any inherent conflict between these viewpoints, and neither demand, as they are, a set of guided principles that either produce harm or good.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@crazyivan I didn’t think I was beating up on @poisonedantidote, but I do think that he has over-generalized in his assumptions.

crazyivan's avatar

Seems like he couldn’t have been more clear that he wasn’t trying to push assumptions about different groups, but rather simply noting statistical correlation. I guess “beating up” was too strong a term.

crisw's avatar

I think the root of the divide isn’t between theist and atheist. it’s between two very different personality types.

Atheists tend to arrive at their atheism through logic. They tend to be people who use logic to solve problems rather than rely on emotion. They tend, according to research, to be people who study issues like religion before making up their minds about them, and to be people who are open to and welcome new ideas and new experiences. Many surveys have shown that atheists, as a whole, are well-educated and intelligent. The other beliefs that you credit to atheists above tend to be beliefs that are held by a large number of people of this demographic, rather atheist or not. It isn’t atheism that causes them to hold these positions, it’s the general though pattern that tends to lead to atheism.

On the other hand, theists of a fundamentalist nature (who are the ones most likely to get in conflict with atheists) tend to cluster, according to research and surveys, in a different thought demographic. They tend to be less well educated, and less open to new experiences, preferring what is familiar and “safe.” They tend to prefer being given information rather than finding it themselves. Again, it’s this type of personality that becomes a fundamentalist rather than the opposite, and the characteristics associated with this type of personality go along for the ride.

iamthemob's avatar

@crisw – interesting – I think it’s the exact opposite. It’s not about how people come to their ideas so much as how people argue their positions. The conflict comes from those who, from whatever perspective, refuse to recognize the merit in the other argument – any merit at all. It’s misleading to compare atheists as a group to “theists of a fundamental nature” and say these are the ones most likely to conflict with atheists. Fundamentalists of any kind are most likely to conflict with anyone who thinks differently from them. The debate seems to be vocal, public, and eerily unproductive when it is the fundamentalists generally who are doing the talking – and detaching fundamentalism from any religious connotation it might have (that’s how I use it), there are plenty of fundamentalist atheists who (1) believe there is no god, (2) believe that everything must be observable to be true, and (3) believe that the only valid arguments are those subject to the scientific method. It is more or less this subgroup who we would want to compare to theists of a fundamentalist nature. I might not be surprised to learn (and this is my assumption) that the subgroup, perhaps more clearly defined, might be more educated, etc., but more likely to have been raised in an environment that was quite religious, that do cluster with atheists and relate to them more often than theists, etc.

Atheists and theists get along fine – I’ve never seen an atheist and a theist get into a fight unless one of them was a fundamentalist to some degree.

crisw's avatar


I don’t think it’s an opposite at all. What I am trying to point out is that there is no way to separate “atheist” or “theist” from the equation, because it’s a much more integral part of someone’s mental existence than that.

crazyivan's avatar

@crisw Much more eloquent than myself but I believe we’re hitting on the same point. The atheism v. theism debate is an extention of a rationalist v. faith-based world view. While not all atheists are rationalists and not all theists are faith based, the arguments that poisonedantidote is referring to generally act as extentions of the larger debate.

In other words, the tie that binds the two groups isn’t their belief in theism, but rather in their approach to a conclusion.

iamthemob's avatar

I can get behind all of that. Unfortunately, I’m willing to putout that I think the most vocal “advocates” on either side often are the least rational examples. Not generally – but in terms of the public media, in a 24-hour news-cycle, sound-byte world.

Qingu's avatar

@poisonedantidote, I’ve found that atheists and theists do tend to get along much better when their political beliefs are the same.

Though, as others have pointed out, there’s a lot of overlap in the way that people approach their religion and their politics. Also, the Bible and the Quran are explicitly political documents.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t find that I have any trouble getting along with theists. The only issue comes when one group tries to impose their beliefs on another.

crisw's avatar

Absolutely. It’s one of the few cases where “there are two kinds of people in this world…” is actually pretty accurate.

Paradox's avatar

Excellent question and one I have asked myself many times. I’m not sure because Fluther isn’t real life. Most liberals I ever knew (believe me they were diehard liberals) were theists, believed in paranormal phenomenom, believed in karma and a new age version of Jesus.

Most liberals I’ve ever known were actually skeptical of many government programs, organizations and even the medical community and were bigtime conspiracy theorists. Alot of them were college educated as well. It does seem like a different breed of “liberals” on Fluther. Dam even the conservatives on here are atheists. Same with most doctors, nurses and hospice nurses I’ve ever known, all the ones I knew were definately theists not atheists.

@crisw @crazyivan Not all theists use the Bible or Quran as a science book. It is also not fair to assume that this is just some not most theists. Just because someone does not agree with you on a political issue this does not make a person irrational. I’m not sure why so many on here seem to assume that theists do not use logic when coming up with their opinion over their faith as a reason.

Same with political issues, just because someone isn’t a bleeding heart eco-nut that does not make that person irrational. Everyone has their own reasons why they have their logic for their opinions whether it be through life or personal experience or through investigation of various scientific theories.

Berserker's avatar

People conflict for any and all reasons. Religion, or lack of belief thereof, doesn’t have to exist for man to skullfuck his fellow man.

I mean, believers who worship the same god but go by differing doctrines don’t even get along.

crazyivan's avatar

@Paradox I’d apologize for saying that people used the Bible or Quran as science books if I’d said it… or anything remotely like it… or if @crisw had said anything like it…

Paradox's avatar

@crazyivan It was only a hypothetical statement since both of you seemed to imply there are only two types of people in this world. One side that uses logic (obviously the atheist here) and the other side only relies on faith (theists here I will assume).

I guess no middle ground is allowed here according to your statements. All theists are religionists and all religionists are theists. I’ve fully read all the posts here and I know how to comprehend what I read. If you are going to make comments like I’ve mentioned above then what am I supposed to think? Most theists do not rely on faith over logic only the fundamental religionists do this.

crisw's avatar


First of all, I specifically referred to fundamentalist theists, not all theists.

Secondly, as to “Most theists do not rely on faith over logic only the fundamental religionists do this.”- while this may be true for other aspects of their life, it isn’t true when it comes to belief in a god. That is, ultimately, based on faith and not logic. Most of the logical arguments for gods have been thoroughly refuted many times.

crazyivan's avatar

@Paradox If you know how to comprehend what you read why are you responding to something that wasn’t said. I was talking about the juxtaposition between rationalists and faith-based thinking. That often manifests in religious debate (which is what we’re talking about), but it can equally arise in a debate about whether George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11 or whether Homeopathics work.

I’d strongly advise that you refrain from making the statement “I know how to comprehend what I read” in the middle of a paragraph where you are amply demonstrating that you haven’t comprehended what you read.

Paradox's avatar

@crisw You said “Most theists do not rely on faith over logic only the fundamental religionists do this.”- while this may be true for other aspects of their life, it isn’t true when it comes to belief in a god. That is, ultimately, based on faith and not logic. Again I do not understand what is such a big deal if someone believes in God (which can be a varied term in itself) especially if the person is willing to use reason over faith. Many theists agree with evolution, old aged universe, and agree with scientific evidence that is presented to them when it’s been proven. I can’t understand why having a core belief in a God makes someone irrational as it seems according to many of your posts I’ve read as well as other users on here. According to your statements no type of theism is considered logical. What really am I supposed to think here?

@crazyivan Actually I have comprehended everything you posted (so I would suggest refraining from wisecracks) and I actually agreed with your first post then when you and crisw started to discuss this issue further it started to become very obvious where both of you were getting at: atheism=logic/theism=faith in general.

Not responding to anybody in general here my own take on this issue is I’m not sure why a certain set of political or other beliefs such as global warming, veganism, abortion and opposing any conspiracy theories among other issues are automatically considered “logical” along with atheist beliefs while if you have a different view on certain topics they are considered “based on faith/belief or how you were brought and what enviroment you were brought up in.

Many theists and conservatives do arrive at their conclusions using logic over faith or enviroment. There are many people who oppose abortion because of logic, who choose not to be vegans because of logic, who support abstinence from sex until marriage programs using logic, who believe certain conspiracy theories actually may have some weight to them not because they’re looking for drama or blame but because some of these theories after reviewing the case and evidence actually shows there may be some truth to these, arriving to the conclusion that there may be an intelligent designer because of investigation, research and logic not blind faith or just wanting to believe. These are just a few of many issues that are good examples where people arrive to their own conclusions using logic.

Like I’ve said in several posts on Fluther already these issues I’ve mentioned do not even have to go together. Most liberals I’ve ever known (most were college educated) were environuts, vegetarians, animal lovers, anti-republican on almost every issue but were more on the new age side of religion rather than atheists and most liberals I knew were actually conspiracy nuts while most conservatives I’ve ever known were as anti-conspiracy as they come.

The irony I find on Fluther here is that most of these alternative health or cancer websites that lash out at “Big Pharma” for secretly surpressing cures of many diseases because of profit are ran by, and how ironically very liberal left-wing, pro-animal rights, pro-enviroment, pro-veganism individuals. Many here on Fluther are pros of what I’ve just mentioned but oppose any cancer conspiracies and are pro-medical community, pro ACS, pro NCI, pro AMA among other things. What an interesting paradox I’ve found on Fluther.

crisw's avatar


“I can’t understand why having a core belief in a God makes someone irrational”

Rational: “the quality of being consistent with or based on logic.”

Therefore- irrational=not based on logic.

Faith “belief that is not based on proof: ”

Beliefs that are logical rely on proofs. Faith does not rely on proof. Therefore, faith is not logical. Therefore, it’s irrational. Not a value statement; just a truthful one.

YARNLADY's avatar

@crisw It is a common error for people to use irrational and illogical interchangeably.

crisw's avatar


What do you see as the difference?

crazyivan's avatar

@Paradox How, exactly, is that a paradox?

(and you once again spent your whole post proving that you weren’t comprehending what was being said)

@YARNLADY Irrationality means acting without rationality… illogical means acting in the absence or contrary to logic. They seem pretty interchangable to me, since logic and rationality essentially share a definition.

YARNLADY's avatar

@crisw @crazyivan Irrational is more of a mental disability, the lack of ability to discern rationally, while illogical is more of a philosophical construct. Irrational people often display illogical behavior as one of their symptoms. Ignorant or undereducated people might display illogical behavior, but they could be taught to change.

Paradox's avatar

@YARNLADY In other words theism is irrational according to the above posts but yet I’m not comprehending the posts correctly.

@crazyivan I was referring to issues I brought up on my own terms when I mentioned the term “paradox”. You obviously didn’t comprehend what I posted.

Berserker's avatar

@YARNLADY I’m not sure how true this is, but someone back on ye old AB once said that people in the UK consider things like bigotry (Racism, anti gays, yadda yadda.) as a mental disorder, and if children show signs of this, they’re taken for psychological examinations.
Anyone from the UK know if this this true or of it’s bs?

crazyivan's avatar

@Paradox Either that or you are misusing the word paradox. I asked you how what you pointed out was paradoxical and rather than answer you acted like a smart-ass. So I say again, in what way is that paradoxical? (It isn’t and you’re clearly misusing the word but I’m curious if you’ll come back and defend it again)

iamthemob's avatar

I’m with @YARNLADY on this one. @crisw – ironically, the link to your definition of “rational” is broken. It is, however, a selected definition, much like the one below:

[rash-uh-nl, rash-nl]
1. agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible: a rational plan for economic development.
2. having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense: a calm and rational negotiator.
3. being in or characterized by full possession of one’s reason; sane; lucid: The patient appeared perfectly rational.
4. endowed with the faculty of reason: rational beings.
5. of, pertaining to, or constituting reasoning powers: the rational faculty.
6. proceeding or derived from reason or based on reasoning: a rational explanation.
7. Mathematics .
a. capable of being expressed exactly by a ratio of two integers.
b. (of a function) capable of being expressed exactly by a ratio of two polynomials.
8. Classical Prosody . capable of measurement in terms of the metrical unit or mora.

Rational thought isn’t inextricably tied to logic – it is tied to reason in a much more significant way. Reason is much more slippery a concept…and allows for conclusions based on assumptions rather than facts, as long as the thought processes proceeding from the assumptions provide a clear argument.

So the question is what assumptions should we consider reasonable? Given neither proof for nor against the existence of god, it seems either assumption is reasonable, and from that assumption is where we should judge which conclusions are reasonable, or rather the product of irrational thought.

E.g.: God exists. Because god exists, we are the product of god’s creation. Because we are products of his creation, god is intimately connected with what we do. Because of this, god would provide instructions according to god’s will. Because the bible provides such instructions, it is the will of god. Because it is written, it is the word of god. Therefore, we must obey the bible. – - This requires several leaps that we can’t really call it rational. But the first assertion doesn’t require any of the following assertions – nor does it require any assertion at all. So why focus on it, and require that it be based on faith?

Paradox's avatar

@crazyivan When I used the term “paradox” it was with references made from my bottom paragraph when I stated The irony I find on Fluther here is that most of these alternative health or cancer websites that lash out at “Big Pharma” for secretly surpressing cures of many diseases because of profit are ran by, and how ironically very liberal left-wing, pro-animal rights, pro-enviroment, pro-veganism individuals. Many here on Fluther are pros of what I’ve just mentioned but oppose any cancer conspiracies and are pro-medical community, pro ACS, pro NCI, pro AMA among other things. What an interesting paradox I’ve found on Fluther and I specifically implied at the top of the first paragraph I was not responding to anybody in general but just making a point. I wasn’t even talking about theism nor atheism anymore. I’m not sure how much clearer I can get on here. I’m done here so type what you will. The question was about issues important to theists and atheists so I answered.

crazyivan's avatar

@Paradox I know. I read the paragraph. It just doesn’t add up to a paradox. Or Irony, for that matter. A paradox is a self-contradictory statement or a statement or set of statements that express a seeming contradiction based on a non-dual truth. So in what way is the fact that some people believe X, Y and Z and others believe X but not Y or Z a paradox? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not!)

mattbrowne's avatar

Getting along does not mean absence of debate.

Debates are the fuel of progress.

What we need is respect, the ability to listen to each other and the ability to challenge one’s assumptions. What we don’t need is aggressiveness.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I prefer dialogue over debate in terms of dialectics actually leading to progress…or, if we’re not looking for progress, forms of critical discourse.

Debate implies too much of a need to win rather than a pursuit of truth (as is the necessary element of dialogue), which I think inevitably creates (or likely creates) the type of aggressiveness you seem to deplore (and I definitely do).

Personally, I love me the Socratic method, which I think is best interpreted as a form of dialogue but many people interpret, unfortunately, as debate, challenge, or just a need to be contrarian.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – Agreed. Dialogue is a better term.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne I consider it the “Coffee Talk” mentality – I always try to imagine the OP as Mike Myer’s in full New York middle-aged woman drag asking the question, e.g. “I’m getting verklempt – twalk amongst yourselves – I’ll give you a topic: The Romanesque architectual movement was based on the Roman Basilica – discuss!”

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