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MissAnthrope's avatar

Who are more tolerant of others' perspectives, atheists or people of faith?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21458points) December 15th, 2010

My experience with atheists was limited before Fluther, but it seems to me that, often in the world, atheists find themselves in a minority position where they feel they have to defend their beliefs. In doing so, they ask tolerance and open-mindedness of Christians, and are understandably frustrated when these are lacking.

In observing trends and patterns on Fluther, it’s impossible not to notice that Christians are a minority here. Fluther is rather left-leaning, heavily atheist, and progressive in general. This is why it surprises me so much that I have observed a fair amount of intolerance

This general tolerance and support of minorities, in addition to the rallying cry of atheists to be respected and their views tolerated, makes it rather ironic to me to have witnessed repeated intolerance of viewpoints outside of the Fluther mainstream.

Personally, I think it’s unfair because tolerance should be a two-way street. I also don’t understand it when a marginalized minority, who knows what it feels like to be in that position, turns around and marginalizes someone else.

In any case, I’m left with a feeling that perhaps atheists are not as tolerant as they believe themselves to be, or, at least, no more tolerant than Christians or other people of faith. Is it a Fluther thing? Is it because the atheists here are on home turf and they know they have a posse to back them up? As a side discussion, does anyone else wonder why Fluther attracts the demographic that it does?

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115 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

The only folks who aren’t tolerant of other people’s perspectives are dicks.

Atheists and People of Faith are cool as shit.

janbb's avatar

I don’t think there is a general tendency. Some atheists are tolerant of faith; many are not and vice-versa. I think believers and non-believers alike are often intolerant of the other persuasion.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I think that defensive nature can be hard to shut off.

I also think that many of us (of course, I can really only speak for myself) are angry about the way we are frequently looked down upon, insulted… about how acceptable it is to “hate” us. So we lash out.

Just for the record, I really do try to avoid that, personally. Doesn’t always work, but I try.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think that any generalizations can be made about groups.

It is individuals who act out.

iamthemob's avatar

I was going to say something more along the lines of “Well, we can’t generalize about blah dee blahdiddy blah…” kind of like what @janbb said (not that @janbb was all blahdiddy blah) until I read @Blondesjon‘s answer.

After reading that…yup, that’s pretty much how you can generalize it. Folks who aren’t tolerant of other people’s perspectives are generally dicks.

I would say that I believe (believe, mind you) that atheists tend to be more tolerant of people of faith when faith is exercised reasonably, as atheism tends to be realized through reason moreso than faith. However, because when it comes to God you tend to have a lot of people really invested in their positions, it’s rare that you find those two styles come head to head.

P.S. – Tolerance should be the bare minimum. I tolerate a fart in a room because, eh, people have bodily functions. But, tolerance is only acceptable when all things are equal.

crisw's avatar

I think you have to define “tolerant.”

There’s a difference between criticizing religion in a discussion about religion, and just being a jerk. Criticism of religion is not, in and of itself, intolerance.

What I often see here as well as in other venues is religious people making claims about something, atheists asking them to back up their claims with verifiable evidence, and religious people then complaining about how intolerant the atheists are. Asking someone to provide actual evidence for their position in a discussion isn’t intolerance.

I see lots of questions like this one where no intolerance is shown at all, because no particular position is being promoted.

Taciturnu's avatar

You have “angry” atheists, who are atheists because of some wrong they think was done to them. They are usually intolerant, I would say. An atheist who has thought through their reasoning is likely to be tolerant of others’ views. (In my experience.)

As a theist, I can say I’ve seen people put a big red X on someone because they didn’t believe in something greater than themselves… They are usually the die hard, live by the book religious types.

I think people choose to be either open-minded or not. Those who choose not to be will be intolerant of more than just religious beliefs (or lack thereof) anyway.

coffeenut's avatar

Atheists are more tolerant

MissAnthrope's avatar

I am not an atheist and I’m not Christian, never have been either. I don’t know what I am half the time, actually. I’m mostly a scientist, so I don’t know that I’ll ever 100% believe anything unless there’s proof you can show me.

I just find it extremely frustrating that people who want to have a conversation about the Bible or about Jesus or whatever.. it doesn’t seem like they can on Fluther. It’s like some geeky outcast kids playing on their own and they’ve built a fort. There always seems to be one or two people who see those kids in the fort and feel compelled to come over and kick the fort to pieces. I mean, the kids were minding their own business, was the destruction of the fort necessary?

That’s how it feels when you have a thread about your particular belief system and then a bunch of people come in and basically say you’re crazy or stupid for believing what you do. I mean, it’s like they’re doing it because they find it amusing in a mean-spirited way, not because they’re really trying to convince anyone of anything, you know?

Trillian's avatar

There are many individual atheists here who are not only intolerant of Christianity, they are actally quite virulent in their assessments and generalize the hell out of them. One can make the same claim about some alternative sexuality life style persons who on the one hand desire tolerance and on the other hand marginalize, make erroneous assumptions, and criicize those who are satisfied with “traditional” roles. And yes, it is ironic.
Let me add to this afterreading something above… Atheists who try to take a morally or intellectually superior stace against a christian, whose beliefs are, after all, based on faith are generally hostile in an underhanded, passive aggressive way. And the fact that they feel entitled to any explanation from a Christian to “their” satisfaction is delusional. They are entitled to nothing. These threads start out with someone asking for people to take a position and as soon as a Christian takes a position the angry atheists….ach, I don’t care. Fuck it, it’s not worth talking about.

mrmijunte's avatar

@marinelife You are exactly right. Usually the “religious” people that do not practice are the ones that do not judge, they are like whatever. Usually the ones that do practice and consider themselves very religious are the ones that might be intolerant to other faiths or people without one. Personally I dislike people that are very religious because I consider that they are the worst. I know I sound like a bad person, and maybe I am, but to me religion, specially the Abrahmic ones are the worst thing to have ever happened to the human race.
Some atheist are indeed intolerant ( me ) because they have very strong feelings about religion whether they lived some kind of nightmare when growing up or because that is their nature. Having said all this I do recognize that religion is a good thing when it comes to having a feeling of being part of a group. When families get together on a Saturday or Sunday and have a meal and have a good time under the pretense of religion is a great thing. But when we look at history and specially our present in the U.S.A. of how people stifle progress because of a book, I hate it.

Blueroses's avatar

People are always more comfortable in a group of like thinkers. I doubt an atheist would stand up in a Pentecostal Sunday service and start demanding proof and reason behind the faith. Similarly, Fluther as a microcosm seems to be well-read, well-spoken people with a beyond the mainstream attitude of tolerance for sexuality but little tolerance for faith based religion.

Seelix's avatar

People as a whole are intolerant of things that contradict their own beliefs. I don’t think it has to do with theism or atheism.

Of course there are exceptions; I consider myself to be rather accepting of just about anything, as it seems that a lot of people here are. I’m talking about the human race as a whole.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I hesitate to link to any actual questions to use as examples, for fear it will seem like I’m calling out the people who participated. So, forgive my lack of actual evidence here, but what I’m talking about, more specifically in regards to Fluther, is that whenever the occult, the paranormal, the Bible, and faith-based questions get asked, more often than not, they are hijacked by “rational thinkers” and the original question never gets answered.

Jellies are able to restrain themselves otherwise.. I mean, if a question isn’t one’s cup of tea, usually it gets skipped. This entering of ‘alternative thought’ threads and ‘trying to talk some sense into’ the people participating, it’s just a very deliberate, disruptive thing. It’s happened often enough where I now marvel at how vehemently some people feel they have to continue participating, to the detriment and eventual gutting of said question. It makes me sad and I think it’s unfair. I really dislike unfairness.

It’s easy to say that these non-mainstream thinkers should find someplace else more fitting, but is total homogeneity really a good goal? I personally feel that a certain amount of disagreement and intellectual head-butting is good for us. It’s good to stimulate discussions and debates here, and it’s good because it exposes us to other people’s viewpoints.

And it’s good to be exposed to different viewpoints, even if sometimes they make you uncomfortable. Especially if they make you uncomfortable.

Sometimes, someone who is of a particular belief system would like an answer. And if the question is posted in General, the guidelines are supposed to guarantee them a serious answer; to note, I don’t think trying to convince someone they’re wrong counts as a serious answer when it comes to topics like religion and politics.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Unfair question. Both parties have their fucking assholes who wont shut the fuck up and both have just cool down to earth people who do their own thing without trying to push shit on others.

ratboy's avatar

Jesus H. Christ! Does someone have to draw you a picture? We’re atheists because we are dicks and we don’t want to face any unpleasant consequences.

absalom's avatar

I’d like to say it’s evenly distributed and that the religious people are just as tolerant as atheists, but I have the suspicion that in many cases there’s a lot of religion-based intolerance that simply goes unvoiced because the speakers know they’d be castigated for it. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but their ‘kind’ of intolerance would meet with more criticism than an atheist’s here and so it’s less likely we’d see it. That doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent, obviously.

Sometimes I think the religious people are more respectful, which is a different thing though and to me a kind of pretense. (People have very gently and respectfully told me that homosexuality is wrong, which is just the nicest kind of intolerance anybody could ask for but is still, at the end of the day, intolerance.)

And performative respect, unfortunately, does not a tolerant human being make.

Edit: Sorry, so many typos… haven’t slept in at least 24 hours.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I know I already answered, but I thought about it a bit more.

I think in many cases, it isn’t just a matter of being atheist. It’s about also being anti-theist. Many people that consider themselves to be atheist are also strongly against religion and its institutions. Not that all atheists are also anti-theist, but I suspect it plays a strong role in who is more likely to butt heads in a more aggressive fashion than others. Religion, spirituality, faith, and lack thereof… are extremely personal and I believe that most of us (people, not just atheists) feel a need to protect them.

LindsayMarieee13's avatar

I personally think that atheists are a little bit more understanding of other people’s views/beliefs. Although, I believe in God, but I will sit down and listen to what other people have to say. It truly depends on the person and their aggression in what they believe.

El_Cadejo's avatar

In thinking about this more and my experiences though I seem to often come across people that when I tell them Im an atheist they seem hurt or offended by it and tend to either think less of me or try and “talk to me about it”. Id have to venture to say things like this dont happen the other way around. though I may be polarized in this since Im only really speaking for myself

tapestryofregret's avatar

I agree with @uberbatman, there are exceptions in every faith. But on the broad (from a strictly agnostic point of view) I seem to pick up more hostility from Atheists than I do Christians. The sense I get from Christian is more pity. Not that I agree with that and honestly I don’t know what’s more of a sign of intolerance..hostility or pity? You tell me.

Most atheist I talk to (when on the subject of religion) almost seem to be resentful of theism, perhaps stemming from past clashes? I don’t know. It’s ridiculous, in my opinion, to argue one way or the other. I’d much rather reserve that kind of mental flexing for a Heinlein novel. When it comes down to it, it’s all about facts….if there are none well then it’s just something to think about.

crisw's avatar


The problem here is one that was brought up in another thread- but it was one in which everyone who tried to explain to the OP, who wanted to know where to find a competent astrologer, why such a thing did not exist was modded off- as was your own contribution that was very similar to what you just wrote.

The question that I had modded off in that discussion still stands.

If I were to ask, on Fluther, for a referral to an ethical unicorn breeder, would it be “intolerant” of respondents to try and explain to me why such a thing does not exist?

When people treat religious phenomena as observed fact, the same standard should apply. Just because you believe it, and are hurt if someone criticizes it, doesn’t make it automatically worthy of respect.

As long as responses stick to hard questions about factual issues, I see no disrespect. I almost never see personal attacks against religious posters. I do see hard questions. Again- why, exactly, is that “intolerance”?

stardust's avatar

I think it boils down to the individual at the end of the day. I wouldn’t want to make a sweeping statement about either “group”. Intolerant people are a thorn in the side, that’s for sure.

downtide's avatar

I think for every intolerant atheist who rants on the internet, there are probably a whole bunch more who don’t even bother reading the thread. Those, you never see. The same as the tolerant theists who don’t want to get sucked into pointless arguments. The net result is that you tend to see more intolerance, on both sides, than there really is.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@tapestryofregret I find the pity more annoying personally. Well said though.

Blackberry's avatar

I’m aware I am ‘intolerant’ sometimes, but for most of the reasons above. Sometimes I may just be in a certain mood and feel combative, other times it is just really difficult for me to grasp a concept like someone being religious and I feel compelled to keep asking myself “Why….just why?” Until my head explodes. And other times I’m laid back and realize why some people just think differently and just deal with it.

I think moods and personal experiences (like being a minority and wanting to lash out, etc.) have a lot to do with how we carry ourselves on here. If you followed one person’s answers on here, they wouldn’t have the exact personality on every controversial question.

tapestryofregret's avatar

@crisw I can see how this can be misinterpreted. From their stand point, they’re asking a genuine question that they expect to get genuine answer from. You on the other hand not only want to drive your point home, but maybe humiliate the person a little in the process. It’s ok though, the crew you hang with that shit goes on all the time right? Simply put, you’re busting their balls, you’re used to your balls getting busted.. but they aren’t.

You might want to adopt a little sensitivity on these matters, I mean you have to believe these people honestly believe in the crap they spew. It’s a mutual respect and come on man, you got a love people…no matter what kinda crazy shit they believe.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@crisw – It’s intolerance because it’s challenging someone’s belief system and/or worldview in a context where the challenge was not asked for. Not to mention, it is frequently done with an air of superiority and a kind of smug self-righteousness. To be clear – and I mean this genuinely – I am not referring to the astrology thread in particular, but am making a general comment based on my review of dozens of occult, paranormal, and religious questions.

It would be sort of like asking “How do you think Obama has done so far?” and having a bunch of people start a debate on whether or not he’s actually president because of his birth certificate. The information provided would be on-topic, if the question was “Is Obama actually the president?” or “What should I believe about Obama and the birth certificate flap?”

Or.. more in spirit with what I’m talking about, it would be like an atheist asking “How did you come about your personal moral code without the example of religion?” and then having believers come in and try to convince you that you can’t have morals without religion.

Trying to convince someone they’re wrong in those kinds of threads is off-topic in General. I get your viewpoint and I see where you’re coming from, but if you want to use that astrology thread as an example, it was not a place for the discussion of whether astrology was a load of crap or not. In fact, what happened there, I think, was very discouraging for the member who posted it and not very tolerant, in my opinion. Tolerance to me is knowing that you don’t believe in astrology, but that some people do, and respecting those beliefs enough to not enter into that type of question. You know what I’m saying? I just don’t see what can be gained by trying to convince someone their belief system is totally wrong when the topic at hand isn’t even close to a discussion about that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(Without reading) I think it depends totally on the individual. If an individual is a fundamenalist religious person, and intolerant and hypocritical as hell, well, that same person would be intolerant and hyypocritical as hell if they were an atheist. They’re all what @Blondesjon said!

crisw's avatar


“It’s intolerance because it’s challenging someone’s belief system and/or worldview in a context where the challenge was not asked for.”

OK, let’s take this a bit further.

If a depressed person asks the best way to commit suicide, because that person believes it’s the only way out right then, are we not supposed to attempt to dissuade the person because they did not ask to be convinced that suicide might not be the right answer?

If someone posts that they have been offered a lot of money by someone in Nigeria and this will be the answer to all their financial prayers, so what should they buy first, but we know that it’s a scam, are we not supposed to say anything because they did not ask to be convinced that it was all a lie?

If someone is utterly convinced that drinking industrial bleach will cure their colitis (this really is a fad right now!) are the medical doctors on Fluther supposed to keep quiet because the OP did not ask to be convinced that drinking bleach is bad for you?

Are these examples of intolerance?

Paradox's avatar

I’ve noticed Fluther seems to attract alot of atheists even though I don’t see a blinking sign saying “Welcome to Fluther, atheist website”. I guess in a way I can’t blame many atheists for their attitude considering the way they’ve been treated like dirt in a religion crazy world. I guess it works both ways.

My own position of being more of a secular dualist who accepts the concepts of a creator (or a divine universal force) without pertaining to any religion, religious book or the need for a “Saviour” is probally the toughest philosophy to hold on Fluther which became pretty clear from different posts I was involved in on here. I know when I give my arguments about why I believe psi is real I seem to be the lone wolf on here. I will admit I’m open about my beliefs and I don’t hide how I feel.

There is a “middle road” here as well between religion and physicalism. I’m sure many Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Spiritualists would fair pretty rough on here as well if they were more open about their spiritual beliefs (assuming there are any individuals on Fluther who follow the beliefs I’ve posted). The middle road gets pounded pretty bad as well here. I’ve seen people make comments on here saying that they have no respect for anybody who even believes any concept of psi could possibly be real but they have no problem with a core belief in a “God” or religion. It works three ways here, not just two.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@crisw What?? You can’t compare fact with belief! Really. One is provable, the other isn’t.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@crisw – No, but your examples are not in the same league, in order to be able to really compare. The first and last are serious matters of life and death, not simply a subjective disagreement on a much less weighty subject. Not only that, but the question about suicide wouldn’t be allowed, so the point is moot.

As for your second example, I’m not sure, quite honestly. I see what you’re saying and I agree that someone should inform them that it’s a scam, but again, this is an exaggerated example that is a lot more serious to me than whether someone believes in astrology or not. I realize you may disagree, but a person’s belief in astrology, and maybe buying a $60 chart, is not in the same league with that person getting sucked in by a Nigerian scammer and losing $1000+.

Also, with the chart, they are getting something in return for their money, unlike the scammer situation. Because of their belief in astrology, what they receive will likely make them happy.

gondwanalon's avatar

Atheists think that religions are non-sense. Ask your self this question: Do you have a lot of patience with something that is nonsensical?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gondwanalon We understand that atheists feel that way. Is that a justification for intolerance and rudeness on their part….basically justification for being an all around asshole over a what is supposedly a minor issue in an atheist’s life? I know several atheists, and most of them…the ones that I continue to associate with…are not assholes.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@gondwanalon – I get your point, but when it comes to other people’s religious views, yes, I do. You could say that believers feel the same way about atheists, that it’s nonsense.. yet atheists don’t seem to have a problem asking for tolerance regarding their views or beliefs.

ETpro's avatar

In my experience atheists are more tolerant than theists, and lass prone to be out proselytizing for their beliefs. I can’t recall any atheists ever knocking on my door wanting to hand me tracts and praying for me to no longer be deceived by theism. Atheists don’t bomb abortion clinics or kill abortion doctors. They don’t picket soldiers funerals with signs saying “God hates fags”. Atheists don’t knock on people’s doors and try to convert them to atheism. They don’t stand bellowing their beliefs to crowds captive to there preaching in subway stations. They don’t kill fellow believers who convert to some other belief system. All those things are done by theists. So who is the more tolerant?

Take a look at this video from RobTheMonk8, The Militant Atheist. I am with Rob. I’m a militant atheist. I will argue as forcefully with a theist regarding their belief in a sky daddy as I would with someone who swore that there was a pink unicorn siting in the middle of my living room with me, and that only my lack of faith rendered me incapable of seeing it. That doesn’t mean I am intolerant of the person. I welcome such debates. If I am in error, and there truly is a sky daddy who wants me to recognize that fact, I profoundly want to know that. so I will listen. Just make some sense, because I will not suffer foolishness in such an important debate. I am open to their reason. I am just not open to biologic, junk thought and rank superstition.

Theists should consider this. We are all atheists. I just disbelieve in all 10,000 different gods man has invented over the eons to explain things that scared him, and that he was then unable to understand. Theists disbelieve in 9,999 but think their particular one (probably the one their parents told them to accept) is as real as the room about them, or the pink unicorn the lunatic vows he can see.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly @MissAnthrope. The way I see it, in any friendship, there is going to be a differing of views. Whether those views are a huge problem in a friendship depends on how much weight each person gives to their views. If one says, “I believe A,” and the other says “I believe B” and they both shrug and say, “Hokay,” and move on, then it’s all cool. But if one HAS to get their back up over the fact that their ‘friend’ has a different viewpoint, then it becomes a problem for both. So, if an atheist gets all bent out of shape, instead of saying “hokay” when a person says they’re a Christian then the athiest has more of a problem with it than the Christian. And by the very definition they shouldn’t. And vise versa.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro (who just finished posting) So…what do you care about my beliefs? We get along in all other aspects. Why can’t you just say, “Hokay” and talk about something else? I can say “Hokay,” and talk about something else. What exactly is the meaning of ‘intolerance’? And if you’re intolerant about someone else’s beliefs, are you an intolerant person overall?

ETpro's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t care if someone finds comfort in a belief system unless they wish to debate it with me or force it on me. I care a great deal when they want to take over school cirricula and teach their beliefs to everyone, or claim that the Establishment clause of the US Constitution is an order to set up a state religion instead of the reverse, and that the US was founded to be a Christian nation. And please don’t think that’s me picking on Christianity. I would be just as quick to fight any move to make the US a Hindu or Buddhist or Islamic state.

I’m a live and let live, libertarian sort of person. I’m just a millitant atheist when a theists tries to convince me I should not believe what I believe. And even then, I am open to any rational arguemnet they have to bring to the table. I have just yet to hear one.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Both are equally intolerant. I believe in God and I have friends who believe in God. I also have freinds who don’t believe in anything. Their choice not mine. Who am I to judge. I don’t force my views in the face of others and I expect the same from others.

ETpro's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Moral relativism. As I noted above, “Atheists don’t bomb abortion clinics or kill abortion doctors. They don’t picket soldiers funerals with signs saying “God hates fags”. Atheists don’t knock on people’s doors and try to convert them to atheism. They don’t stand bellowing their beliefs to crowds captive to there preaching in subway stations. They don’t kill fellow believers who convert to some other belief system. All those things are done by theists.

And you say both are the equally intollerant? Moral relativism.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@ETpro Niether do most Christians. I’m tired of having to defend myself because of the actions of someone else. Do you really think most Christians act that way? I’m Christians so I know how my fellow Christians act. These people who commit these cirmes a picket soldiers funerals are not christians. Very unfair to generalize us based on the actions of a minority.

gondwanalon's avatar

@Dutchess_III and @MissAnthrope There is no excuse for being rude to other folks because of their beliefs. However such intolerance could possibly be facilitated by the fact that atheists are in the minority and are regularly (in your face-like) exposed to religion. Churches are everywhere, “In God We Trust” is on our money, and too often religious folks show up at your front door to spread the holy word. Over time this relentless religion and preaching could cause a good atheist person to snap out with some intolerance now and then. Especially if he or she was having a bad day.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@ETpro – Just one example, but religious people don’t own all the stock in crazy, nor in zealotry. Crazy extremist people are in every camp, no matter where you look.

It also strikes me as similar, the whole “pushing your views on someone thing”, in terms of threads being hijacked by dissenters. The responding to these questions is entirely deliberate – the person has to click on the question to get there – and once there, the dissenter then vehemently pushes their views on the OP.

I get having a problem with the things you have a problem with, I totally agree. The past 10 years were a real growing-up lesson for me, in terms of learning tolerance of other people’s beliefs. My mom and step-dad openly mocked Christianity when I was growing up, so it’s not like I was raised with an innate love or anything. I used to be where you are, honestly, very offended they were ‘in my face’ and pushing pamphletry on me and such. I’ve probably added a couple of years to my life by learning to tolerate it and not getting so worked up by it.

I just think that if you ask for something, like tolerance, like not having someone else’s views shoved down your throat, that it should be automatically returned. Getting all crazy on someone because they believe in Jesus, when they haven’t said anything to you, is not right.

Blackberry's avatar

I think this also goes back to the notion that all opinions and beliefs should be equally respected, but some people (not restricted to fluther) are simply stating that this cannot happen, and for a good reason.

ETpro's avatar

@Mikewlf337 No, of course I am not saying all theists behave in such a way. Most are quite tolerant of other faiths, and of people having no faith at all. But the fact remains that the balance of truly intolerant behavior remains heavily on the side of theism. Think how many wars have been thought because this or that nation believed in the worrying god, and even the same God worshiped in the wrong way (Northern Ireland, Shiia versus Sunni Muslims blowing each other up). You could claim that Stalin and Chairman Mao killed in the name of Atheism, but that is not really true. They happened to be atheistic communists, but they pushed their purges and wars for political power, not because they believed their atheism needed to be spread. The religious wars I mention were all carried out by one religion or another to forcefully convert others to their faith, or kill them if they refused to convert.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro and @gondwanalon Try this on for size. See if it fits.
Me: “I’m Black”
You: “Well! Then you’re ______ ABCD, because ALL blacks are ______ ABCD.”
Does it fit?
I’m Christian.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@ETpro I’m not talking about nutcases like the Westboro Baptist Church and abortion clinic bombers. I’m talking about the Average Joe and the Average Jane.

ETpro's avatar

@Dutchess_III Looks like the time warp kicked in. I answered your questin just before you asked it.

@Mikewlf337 Fair enough. But whan you ask which group is more tolerant, you have to consider the whole of each group. It certainly is a set up to say which are more tolerant, the Unitarian Universalists representing Christianity and all theism, or the most militant atheists know to earth?

absalom's avatar


Yes, but, in all seriousness, you could not be sure of whether or not a pink unicorn existed in the middle of your living room, whether one does now, whether it is nibbling your ear or impaling you upon its horn, et cetera et cetera.

And above all and certainly more important is that I / Eye cannot be sure of whether or not you can be sure of whether or not a pink unicorn exists in your living room and is possibly quite surreptitiously impaling you this very moment, etc.

The world is all that is the case, I am the Lord.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro So, you understand that people should be taken on a individual basis. Hokay. That’s all I needed to hear! ktxbai!

tapestryofregret's avatar

@ETpro I think it’s naive to assume that the holy wars aren’t fought for political power. It’s like believing that GW Bush is a real christian and not just using that position to bolster political support. Just my 2 cents.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tapestryofregret Where do you people come from??? 74 points and a GA??

tapestryofregret's avatar

This is my first day on this glorious website, sorry.

Kardamom's avatar

In general atheists don’t care or mind what other people do or believe as long as their lives are not negatively impacted by a particular religion’s belief system. Atheists enjoy having the freedom to choose (not to believe in God) and other freedoms that people should automatically get while living under a Constitution (at least in the U.S.) that suggests that all of us are equal and should be given the same rights. Most atheists defend other people’s rights to be gay and to have safe, legal abortions and to be single and adopt children and to have children while not being married and to be gay while serving in the military. Most religions absolutely forbid all of these things (in the name of their God) and in that way, they negatively impact people’s lives where they have no need or right to. That’s when atheists get upset and have to try to defend themselves and others’ rights.

But in general, most atheists don’t mind if other people are religious and probably participate in some of the secular aspects of some of the holidays, like Christmas and Easter, because they are also part of their family traditions and it’s fun. They just don’t want to have their lives negatively impacted by someone else’s religion. They try to be reasonable and live by the laws under the constitution and try to change the laws so that don’t go along with the equality part.

And most atheists probably agree that some religion (for the believers) is a good thing, in that it does seem to help a lot of people cope, because most people seem to need to believe that there is a God or they would go mad. And that’s ok.

And most atheists don’t believe in God, because they think that science and proof and truthfulness are extremely important and that faith can’t help with any of those things. And most atheists are not absolutists, they don’t know for sure if there is or isn’t a God, but until there is proof, he/she is no more worthy of belief than pink unicorns in the sky.

ETpro's avatar

@tapestryofregret Welcome to FLuther. I hope you will find it an enjoyable an lively community full of interesting discussion.

I am sure you are right that the Pope had power, wealth, control of the Holy Lands on his mind when he launched the Crusades, but retaking Jerusalem for Christendom was right there at the top of his list too. And comments George W Bush has made to friends indicate that he really did believe that God wanted him to take out Saddam. The religious element may not be the only motivator of holy wars, but it’s up there—- and the intollerance followers of some branches of religion carry makes religion an easy political tool for devious politicians to use in justifying man killing his fellow man.

Name me one war that was sold to its soldiers on the basis of “We have to go stop those believers in Hackastan from believing, because There Is No God told us we had to do it.”

tapestryofregret's avatar

Look man, I don’t know what the real story is, but I do know that you’re making a lot of sweeping generalizations and I wish you wouldn’t because I actually agree with some of the stuff you’re saying, I just think your delivery is off. I mean if you want these people to listen to you, I mean really listen to you, you’re going to have to level with them and at least try to sympathize with their beliefs. I know it sucks but that’s just the way it is. We can go back and forth playing the blame game all night, but only people know the real truth about why these atrocities were committed were those people who were directly responsible, anything else is just pure speculation..because we know that human are nothin but a bunch of lying theivin pimps and whores, who are totally capable of exploiting just get real man.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hackastan? LOL! The birthplace of the Mighty HackySack.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro Thing is, I think, most people HAVE to believe there is a higher power directing them to do what is either A) against everything they know is right in within themselves or B) to justify wanting to do things they know are wrong.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tapestryofregret Not exactly sure who you’re talking to… I assume @ETpro? But I sure appreciate your input and I hope you stay.

tapestryofregret's avatar

whoops sorry, yes that was @ETpro

Mikewlf337's avatar

@ETpro now that I think about it. Not many groups can be judged as a whole. Intolerance is an individual thing and not usually a group thing. Westboro Baptist Church is a sub group but most Christians don’t wan’t anything to do with them. People who bomb abortion clinics are nothing more than terrorists. Most Christian may not agree with atheism but most of them can coexist with atheist. To me Religion is a personal matter and should be kept that way.

perspicacious's avatar

People of Faith.

Afos22's avatar

@Dutchess_III This question isn’t about individuals. “Oh, I don’t do that”. It is about generalization.

ETpro's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Thanks. I totally agree that in both Christianity and Islam, the lunatic fringe are the exceptions and not the rule. But the question asked for a sweeping generalization, and so that is what I was answering. While most theists and atheists are live-and-let-live types. most of the over-the-top you-gotta-believe-this-way-or-die types are theists. That’s just a fact.

If @tapestryofregre thinks I am making sweeping generalizations, I disagree. And I feel pretty comfortable from my time and involvement here that most of you would see it that way too. The question asked us to compare two very large groups. There is no way you can do that by comparing each individual in both groups. You must look at their general behavior and compare that.

tapestryofregret's avatar

@ETpro You are though. You are generalizing the concept of war and why it’s fought. It’s never EVER as simple as, we don’t like them- lets get em. Life is a rich fuckin tapestry. Just one example of the point I’m driving at:

You are living int he dark ages, roughly 75% of all the people you know are dead. You’re in some field some where digging a spud out of the ground and lo and behold what’s that on the horizon? A bunch of geared up dudes riding horses? “Fuckin A!!! Im a Christian!!! Bring me with you!!! I love Jesus!!!”

The reality is that war has more to do with politics and resources than it does anything else. There is a famous quote “Civilization is a society that isn’t starving” Because you best believe that when push comes to shove and all the power and water and food and are gone, Christians and Atheists alike will fill the streets cannibalizing their brothers.

Convenient that it was Christianity that had taken up popularity during these times, in my opinion it could have just as easily been atheism. If people are dying for a way to live, the will kill, mame, destroy ANYTHING that stands in the way of their self preservation.

ETpro's avatar

@tapestryofregret Nor did I ever say war was that simple. Get your dander down, and go back and read what I actual siad. I agreed with you that political factors and lust for power often motivate those who start wars. But the wars we call religious wars, to a one, were sold to the people on the basis of being a fight for God. I said that theism makes a convenient tool to sell war.

I also note that theism is responsible for incredible intolerance in nations with Sharia law. It is used there to justify horon killings, murder of infidels, stonings of women for the high crime of letting themselves be raped, and all sorts of other brutalities. Show me the times the Danes or the Japanese, two very secular cultures, have done out to kill all the Fidels as the Islamic extremists do the Infidels.

crisw's avatar


There’s a good example of some over-moderation due to “intolerance” going on right now. Someone is asking What are Capricorns good at? stating that she wants to learn a hobby- not that she absolutely believes in astrology.

Several people told her “do what interests you, not what someone tells you about your astrological sign.”

Those responses all got modded off.

That is far less helpful to the OP than letting them stand. She has a much better chance of finding something she enjoys if she follows her heart and mind rather than some horoscope.

This is really much more of an example of intolerance than a discussion of religion, if you ask me.

ratboy's avatar

Intolerance in the defense of godlessness is no vice. And tolerance in the pursuit of godliness is no virtue.

Respect for a person and for that person’s right to believe as he chooses in no way entails respect for what he believes. Do you agree to respectfully disagree with someone who advocates rendering Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, and atheists into dog chow? Is it good that the German people were so tolerant of Nazi insanity?

I’ll let Daniel Hillis finish my rant:

“Ideas are the most powerful forces that we can unleash upon the world, and they should not be let loose without careful consideration of their consequences. Some ideas are dangerous because they are false, like an idea that one race of humans is more worthy that another, or that one religion has monopoly on the truth. False ideas like these spread like wildfire, and have caused immeasurable harm. They still do. Such false ideas should obviously not be spread or encouraged, but there are also plenty of trues idea that should not be spread: ideas about how to cause terror and pain and chaos, ideas of how to better convince people of things that are not true.”

If it is not already here, the time will soon come when religious lunatics can acquire weapons of mass destruction. Religion is as real a threat as any of the global catastrophes that can befall us.

Brian1946's avatar


When I click on your Daniel Hillis link, I’m taken to an article by Carolyn Porco.

ratboy's avatar

@Brian1946, scroll down a little more than half way.

mattbrowne's avatar

To me tolerance is appreciation of diversity, the ability to live and let others live, and the ability to adhere to one’s convictions while accepting that others adhere to theirs.

Being tolerant does not include tolerance of intolerance. On the contrary, I think that ethical living requires active engagement in building a more humane world. This means we have to raise our voices against intolerance.

Most atheists, just like most theists, are good people. They are highly rational, intelligent loving people. And therefore they raise their voices against intolerance. For example when religious zealots show outrageously ignorant signs saying ‘God hates fags’.

The problem is out-group homogeneity bias, and even intelligent people seem to fall into this trap from time to time. The attitude that all forms of religion or all forms of theism are ridiculous by definition does amplify this effect. What might have begun as a well-meaning and admirable attempt to make a stand against intolerance and ignorance ends up, as @Trillian put it, as proselytizing for a morally and intellectually superior stance against all people of faith, which therefore includes religious people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.

So sometimes Mr. Atheist becomes Mr. Know-It-All and slowly loses the ability to challenge his assumptions.

Societies are not perfect. Religions are not perfect. World views are not perfect. Scientific theories are not perfect. People are not perfect. Can we keep our ideals in spite of everything, and, like Anne Frank, still believe that people are really good at heart? Can we live with some imperfection?

I’d like to use this parable to illustrate my point:

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, the man’s enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ – ‘An enemy did this,’ the man replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ – ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.’

For every 100 Martin Luther Kings we will see 1 or 2 Fred Phelps.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro You said, “This question isn’t about individuals. “Oh, I don’t do that”. It is about generalization.” Well, if you look at it like that, then the question is too stupid to answer, and I’m out.

ETpro's avatar

@Dutchess_III Suit yourself. The question was “Who are more tolerant of others’ perspectives, atheists or people of faith?” It is asking about two very large groups of people, and which is the more tolerant. If we wanted to pin it down to two specific individuals, one a theist and the other an atheist, then there would be no generalization required. But to analyze the comparative tolerance levels of two groups, both being larger than 1 billion people, would be impossible without looking at the characteristics of each group as a group.

tapestryofregret's avatar

@ETpro I disagree. I hold people responsible for their actions, not their beliefs.

On some level we’re all conscious of our actions. We all have some sense of morality. Assuming your morals are sound, doing terrible things in order to keep yourself alive must be justified in the mind. Then it becomes a case of which came first the chicken or the egg? Did man commit terrible acts before the onset of theism, or did theism enable man to commit terrible acts? I think the answer to that question is obvious.

To me, assuming that these acts would not have been committed had theism never existed is a ridiculous claim. What if there were more Atheists in the world than Theists? Do you honestly believe that the world would be a better place? I think not, I think it would be the same place….because it is the nature of man that causes these terrible things to happen, not his ideas.

crisw's avatar


“What if there were more Atheists in the world than Theists? Do you honestly believe that the world would be a better place?”

Yes.There are a lot of other issues besides the doing of “terrible things in order to keep yourself alive” that would be much less likely in an atheist society. People, especially those who can least afford it, wouldn’t be giving huge swathes of their income to churches, there would be no reason to discriminate against gay people, religion would not be an excuse for any action, real biology could be taught in schools, stem cell research could go on unimpeded, abortion and birth control would be safe and widely available, and on and on.

iamthemob's avatar

@crisw – I feel like your arguments are more appropriate for supporting an assertion that the world would be a better place if atheism were more common than organized religion.

That said, I think @tapestryofregret has a point that the state has pushed devastating agendas, pushing nationalism, race, etc. as the propaganda tools in a manner that doesn’t require religion’s help.

tapestryofregret's avatar

@crisw You have to consider the very real contributions that Christianity, foremost, has made to the world, not just the ill effects. Although on the one hand it has been used to push a lot of, as @iamthemob put it, devastating agendas, another effect seems to be something like 2000 years of relative tranquility (compared to what is known of history before that) out of which we see an evolution in culture and technology on an unprecedented scale, which still continues today. It could be argued that theism has outgrown its usefulness, and there I might agree with you, but honestly I think the world is just too complicated to know for sure, but maybe you can consider all of this and begin to see theism as a product of inevitability, not some obscure presence that has butted its way in to our lives that can be easily shoved out.

ETpro's avatar

@tapestryofregret The question asked about the general tolerance level of the two groups. Being tolerant and being intolerant are actions, not beliefs. Thus, your argument is fallacious. I suspect that you want the answer to come out that theist (or more likely your particular brand of theists) are far more tolerant than anyone else. Any other answer, you will try to poke holes in.

iamthemob's avatar

I think @ETpro has just said something that clarifies the issue: ”Being intolerant and being tolerant are actions, not beliefs.

tapestryofregret's avatar

@ETpro I’m sorry that you feel that way. I’m agnostic and have no reason to support one group over the other. I don’t feel as though I was attempting to answer the original question in all my responses, I felt that I was responding to the discussion as it evolved into a something a bit more than that. I try to see things realistically, with as little bias as possible.

ETpro's avatar

@tapestryofregret I apologize for having guessed your motivation wrongly, but that does not change the fact that the argument is fallacious on its merits, not it’s intent. :-)

tapestryofregret's avatar

@ETpro Again, I wasn’t necessarily trying to answer the original question with my responses, more so trying to explain religion as a practical application to society, for those who would otherwise view it as useless and/or unneeded, providing nothing but problems. So yes, sorry for going off on a tangent.

iamthemob's avatar

I’m the most tolerant of all you all peoples. I’m just putting it out there.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob You are not! I am, and I simply will not tolerate anyone saying otherwise!

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro – I disagree, but will tolerate your opinion.


ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob—Ha! Great one-upmanship.—

Paradox's avatar

Let’s look at some of what I see here as far as tolerance goes going by my own personal experiences. Maybe I will tick many people off on here but so be it.

1. Fundamentalist and most conservative Christians: Usually not tolerant of other people’s lack of belief or belief systems outside of Christianity who don’t take the Bible literally. There is an obvious reason for this intolerance because according to these religionists Jesus is Lord and is the only way to heaven. It is mathematically impossible for anyone who believes this to be tolerant of other religious beliefs when their beliefs are the only way to heaven because it’s their duty to “save” you from your false religious beliefs or lack of belief.

Personal experiences: This group tends to not be tolerant at all of any other religious beliefs including my own. Their beliefs are already set regardless of what science proves. This group seems to rule the internet as well for some reason.

2. Many mainstream and liberal Christians: This group does not take the entire Bible literally and many of them may have varied beliefs amongst themselves. Many in this group believe it is more important to be good and your motivations for doing is more important than believing a Saviour died for our sins, (in other words works are more important than faith). Some people in this group do not even believe there is a literal “hell” or that hell is only temporary rather than eternal. Some of the more liberal “enlightened” Christians only use the Bible for moral and spiritual reasons and don’t take anything in the Bible literally. This group tends to be very tolerant of most other people and will even speak out against the Bible literalists.

Personal experiences: Somewhat mixed. Most respect my belief in a higher power without reference to the Christian God but a few will give me a difficult time. This group is unfairly criticised by many atheists and fundamentalist Christians.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Although they are usually condemned by most Evangelicals for not being true Christians this group believes that the unworthy will remain in a state of eternal sleep rather than eternal hell.

Personal experiences: Though this group only believes their literal interpretation of the Bible is correct my experiences with them have been much more positive than my experiences with fundamentalist Evangelical Christians.

4. Catholics:_ Ah my own former religion. This group tends to be much more open minded when it comes to accepting many scientific facts and we’re usually condemned by that fundamentalist element of Christianty as well. This group tends to be tolerant of most belief systems at least today but in the past the Roman Catholic Church was the most evil thing to ever walk the earth brutally murdering many people. I no longer associate myself with Catholicism. If I wasn’t brought up as a Catholic I probally would have never choosen it anyway for a belief system.

5. Muslims: I have met many muslims personally and the ones I’ve personally met seemed very tolerant but I will admit that my experience with muslims is somewhat limited and I will admit I know very little about this religion. However, the fundamentalist element of this group are just as bad as many fundamentalist Christians if not even much worst in many aspects as we can clearly see on the evening news. I guess the frequently used term “infidels” shows that this religion on a large scale is not very tolerant of other beliefs as well.

6. Wiccans, Pagans and Spiritualists: I’ve personally met quite a few of these people and their belief system is fairly simple and comes very close to matching mine. They have a simple system of doing onto others as you would have them do onto you. You reap what you sow. This group is very tolerant of most other people and their philosophy makes sense to me, no Saviour required. We are fully responsible for our own actions. Unfortunately this group gets attacked on just as much a scale as atheists. On top of that I see many atheists attack this groups beliefs as well.

7. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, ect: I’ve never met any but most of them seem to be peaceful and tolerant of other beliefs and their philosophy seems similar in many ways to Pagan beliefs.

8. Agnostics: I tend to get along with most agnostics I’ve ever known and most are open minded enough where you can have a reasonable conversation with them. Unfortunately even this group gets attacked by many fundamentalist atheists for being “atheists without balls”.

9 Deists: I only ever personally knew a few but this group seems reasonable and tolerant of most other beliefs/or lack of as well.

10 Atheists: I like to divide this group I guess going by my experiences with them.

Sceptical atheists: This group tends to be more tolerant of other belief systems. Their minds aren’t made up like the other group. Like a true sceptic they can be convinced when presented with enough evidence and are not locked onto obscuring information for the sake of defending the orthodox viewpoint.

Fundamentalist atheists: Yes this group does exist even though many atheists will deny it. No they don’t come knocking on people’s doors handing out calling cards or trying to convert people. They do this in a very different way like using the internet and their books. Their minds are already made up as well. They have little or no tolerance for people that believe the concepts of a creator could exist or even that psi could be a actual part of nuclear physics.

They know or almost certainly know there is no God or they know or again almost certainly know that psi could never be an actual part of physics. All there is is physicalism. They condemn ancedotal evidence unless it supports their positions of course. Just like the fundamentalist religionists they condemn their minds are made up as well to what they are willing to accept or not. Pseudosceptics is the better term here. Their “Bibles” are books by individuals such as Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, JERF and other “sceptical” websites. No amount of evidence will convince them for they will just raise the bar when evidence is presented to them. This group tends to ignore the results of double and even triple blinded scientific experiments that confirm/or may confirm uncomfortable truths to them.

crisw's avatar


“This group tends to ignore the results of double and even triple blinded scientific experiments that confirm/or may confirm uncomfortable truths to them.”

Like which ones, in particular?

tapestryofregret's avatar

@Paradox So what is your particular belief? If you don’t mind me asking of course. Sorry, but after reading all of that I can’t help but wonder.

Paradox's avatar

@crisw That will be for another day about what I’m referring to. I’m trying to stick to the topic of the thread about tolerance. Don’t worry the day will come when I debate those certain “issues” with you but not on this thread. Out of curiosity which group are you in crisw out of the ones I’ve mentioned? I’m admitting my beliefs here below you.

@tapestryofregret Good question, I don’t know. I’m not sure what term you would call someone who has a belief in a higher power without conforming with any religion. I wouldn’t call myself a deist since I believe this creator still takes part in our lives in some way. I believe every religion has some parts that are true but at the same time I don’t believe any single religion is the way. I guess I would just classify myself as a theist or maybe a secular theist (if there’s such a term).

tapestryofregret's avatar

@Paradox Interesting. I sort of feel the same way, but always considered my self agnostic because of the whole ‘I don’t know’ factor. Not that it really matters. GA btw, I especially enjoyed how you took the time to break down each group into subgroups and for the most part agree with all that was said.

ETpro's avatar

@tapestryofregret I used to call myself agnostic too, but was challenged on it here. The definition includes a firmly held belief that the answer to “Is there a God?” is not only unknown but completely unknowable. Personally, I think that is an absurd definition and should be changed. I would like to see agnostic applied to someone who simply says I do not presently know whether there is a creator or isn’t.

Clearly, if there is an entity powerful enough to create such a vast universe and set its rules so carefully that it runs like a clock for 13.73 billion years and counting, that being could make her existence know to us. It is equally possible that science may some day establish that the Universe is cyclic and has existed infinitely, and that it has no creator other than itself. I can’t imagine how any true skeptic could claim that the ultimate question is not only unanswered, but unanswerable.

Afos22's avatar

@Paradox Please cite come examples of these “results of double and even triple blinded scientific experiments that confirm/or may confirm uncomfortable truths to them.” and if you’d like, I would site examples of scientific experiments that confirm/or may confirm uncomfortable truths for theists.

crisw's avatar


I am a skeptical atheist, although I see some problems with your definitions. But, in the end, give me enough evidence for anything and I will change my mind.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Paradox – Very interesting classification. I totally agree that fundamentalist (dogmatic) atheists do exist. Yes, indeed, this group does exist even though many atheists will deny it. Some time ago I came up with my own classification.

I think theism = deism + purpose and meaning and rituals.

There’s some overlap with yours, but also some differences:

A1) Deism

In deism a divine entity is seen as the reason for existence and it created the cosmos (universe, multiverse) and its physical laws. Religious beliefs are optional. There is a theistic and atheistic interpretation of the cosmos. The existence of a deity is not a scientific question. Many deists reject religion, but they are to a certain extend influenced by the culture they grew up in. There are deists who do not consider themselves to be Christians, but they are influenced by some Christian values and ethics.

A2) Enlightened Christianity

Enlightened Christianity is a form of liberal Christianity with a strong focus on the Age of Enlightenment and interfaith dialog. In addition to deism, there’s the belief that the divine entity called God also sustains the physical laws and that our cosmos has a purpose and a deeper meaning. The orderly, biofriendly cosmos is the result of a deliberate act. God is beyond nature and should not be viewed as a god of the gaps. Science cannot explain the world, only phenomena which are observed within our cosmos. There is no magic, which means the supernatural doesn’t exist in our world. Natural sciences are consistent with both atheism and religious belief. Rationalism, critical thinking and spiritual progressiveness are core values of enlightened Christians. Rationality needs to be tied to moral decency. Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism. Holding on to superstitions is therefore wrong. Liberal Christianity in a more general sense uses a method of biblical hermeneutics, which is an individualistic method of understanding God through the use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings.

The Christian religion has many levels of meaning and the belief in God is only one of them. Jesus Christ being the son of God has a symbolic meaning. Prayers are a form of meditation supporting our spiritual growth and finding our strengths. Dogmas arise in a social context and when the context changes, dogmas should change too or even be given up. Rituals are seen as a means to strengthen social groups. Christianity must not claim exclusive rights in defining truth and it is best seen as one world view among many. In-group/out-group morality models are discouraged. Liberal and enlightened Christians share many values with other belief systems and world views such as liberalism and humanism.

A3) Conservative Christianity

The true nature of God is beyond our understanding. God has the capability to directly intervene in world events and He does so from time to time. Religious miracles can be seen as spiritual reality. Dogmas lie at the heart of Christianity and they should be upheld. Dogmas and rituals are a direct consequence of divine revelation. Prayers are directly answered, sometimes by direct intervention. Conforming to Christian rituals and rules is seen as the best way to please God. Christianity is superior to all other faiths. Believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved.

A4) Christian Fundamentalism

The whole Bible is literally true and a direct result of divine revelation. Scientific findings and explanations must remain consistent with teachings of the Bible. Christianity is the only true faith. Muslims and Jews and followers of other religions as well as atheists are infidels and they will be punished by God.


B1) Deism

Same definition, see above. Many deists reject religion, but they are to a certain extend influenced by the culture they grew up in. There are deists who do not consider themselves to be Jews, but they are influenced by some Jewish values and ethics.

B2) Enlightened Judaism

Enlightened Judaism is a form of Reform Judaism and Liberal Liberalism with a strong focus on the Age of Enlightenment and interfaith dialog. In addition to deism, there’s the belief that the divine entity called God also sustains the physical laws and that our cosmos has a purpose and a deeper meaning. The orderly, biofriendly cosmos is the result of a deliberate act. God is beyond nature and should not be viewed as a god of the gaps. Science cannot explain the world, only phenomena which are observed within our cosmos. There is no magic, which means the supernatural doesn’t exist in our world. Natural sciences are consistent with both atheism and religious belief. Rationalism, critical thinking and spiritual progressiveness are core values of enlightened Jews. Therefore holding on to superstitions is wrong. The individual Jew will approach this body of ‘mitzvot’ and ‘minhagim’ in the spirit of freedom and choice.

The Jewish religion has many levels of meaning and the belief in God is only one of them. Almost everything connected with Jewish ritual law and custom was of the ancient past, and thus no longer appropriate for Jews to follow in the modern era. Prayers are a form of meditation supporting our spiritual growth and finding our strengths. Dogmas arise in a social context and when the context changes, dogmas should change too or even be given up. Rituals are seen as a means to strengthen social groups. Judaism must not claim exclusive rights in defining truth and it is best seen as one world view among many. In-group/out-group morality models are discouraged. Reform-oriented enlightened Jews share many values with other belief systems and world views such as liberalism and humanism.

B3) Orthodox Judaism

The true nature of God is beyond our understanding. God has the capability to directly intervene in world events and He does so from time to time. Dogmas lie at the heart of Judaism and they should be upheld. The Torah and its laws are divine and were transmitted by God to Moses. They are eternal and unalterable. Prayers are directly answered, sometimes by direct intervention. Jews are chosen to be in a covenant with God. Jews are expected to observe all 613 mitzvot. Judaism is superior to all other faiths.

B4) Ultra-orthodox Judaism

Judaism is the only true faith. The true Jewish belief all religious practices extend back to Moses in an unbroken chain. The Halacha is considered a set of God-given instructions to effect spiritual, moral, religious and personal perfection. It includes codes of behavior applicable to every imaginable circumstance. Non-orthodox and modern orthodox streams of Judaism are unjustifiable deviations from authentic Judaism. Muslims and Christians and followers of other religions as well as atheists are infidels and they will be punished by God.


C1) Deism

Same definition, see above. Many deists reject religion, but they are to a certain extend influenced by the culture they grew up in. There are deists who do not consider themselves to be Muslims, but they are influenced by some Islamic values and ethics.

C2) Enlightened Islam

Enlightened Islam is a form of liberal Islam with a strong focus on the Islamic Golden Age, the Age of Enlightenment and interfaith dialog. In addition to deism, there’s the belief that the divine entity called God or Allah also sustains the physical laws and that our cosmos has a purpose and a deeper meaning. The orderly, biofriendly cosmos is the result of a deliberate act. Allah is beyond nature and should not be viewed as a god of the gaps. Science cannot explain the world, only phenomena which are observed within our cosmos. There is no magic, which means the supernatural doesn’t exist in our world. Therefore holding on to superstitions is wrong. Liberal Muslims do not necessarily subscribe to the more culturally-based interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith. They view natural sciences as being consistent with both atheism and religious belief. Rationalism, critical thinking and spiritual progressiveness are core values of enlightened Muslims.

Islam has many levels of meaning and the belief in Allah is only one of them. Muhammad is an important messenger and prophet of God in a series of Islamic prophets. Prayers are a form of meditation supporting our spiritual growth and finding our strengths. Dogmas arise in a social context and when the context changes, dogmas should change too or even be given up. Rituals are seen as a means to strengthen social groups. Islam must not claim exclusive rights in defining truth and it is best seen as one world view among many. In-group/out-group morality models are discouraged. Enlightened Muslims share many values with other belief systems and world views such as liberalism and humanism.

C3) Conservative Islam

The true nature of Allah is beyond our understanding. Allah has the capability to directly intervene in world events and He does so from time to time. Dogmas lie at the heart of Islam and they should be upheld. Dogmas and rituals are a direct consequence of divine revelation. Prayers are directly answered, sometimes by direct intervention. Islam is superior to all other faiths. Muhammad is the last and the greatest law-bearer in a series of Islamic prophets as taught by the Qur’an.

C4) Fundamentalist Islam

The whole Qur’an is literally true and a direct result of divine revelation. The Qur’an is a book of divine guidance and direction for mankind. The legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated must be based on the Sharia. Everything in the daily life of a faithful Muslim is in strict conformity with the teachings of the Qu’ran and the verbal teachings and dialogues of the Prophet Muhammad. Scientific findings and explanations must remain consistent with the Qur’an. Islam is the only true faith and fatwas must be issued to protect the faith. Christians and Jews and followers of other religions as well as atheists are infidels and they will be punished by Allah.

C5) Islamist extremism

Jihad, the holy war, is a religious duty of all Muslims. It must be fought on a global level. The enemies of Islam must be destroyed.


D1) Implicit Atheism

Implicit atheism is the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it. Weak atheism (sometimes also called negative atheism) refers to any other type of non-theism, wherein a person does not believe any deities exist, but does not claim that same statement is false. Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of the existence of deities and spiritual beings are unknown. There are non-spiritual explanations for the nature of physical reality and the meaning of good and evil.

D2) Enlightened Atheism

The cosmos might have a purpose and a deeper meaning, but the reason for this would not be related to divine power. There is a solid scientific understanding of our cosmos. Science can explain phenomena which are observed within our universe or multiverse. There is no magic within our world, which means the supernatural doesn’t exist. Being superstitious is wrong. Atheism must not claim exclusive rights in defining truth and it is best seen as one world view among many. There is no reason why religion cannot be compatible with reason or with the main body of accredited human knowledge. Antireligionism and antireligious dogmas are rejected and seen as counterproductive, but any religion worthy of belief should be consistent with human reason and knowledge.

Being spiritual does not necessarily mean being religious. In enlightened atheism in-group/out-group morality models are discouraged. A human-centered spirituality should be articulated in which atheists, agnostics and believers can feel equally at home. To live in a spiritually healthy way, people must be allowed to be authentically themselves, to realize their full potential, and to make their own moral and lifestyle choices. The focus is on human dignity and acting in good faith, bringing out and rehabilitating the innate goodness of humankind. The core values of enlightened atheism also include spiritual growth, compassion, generosity, nonviolence, humility, as well as inner and outer peace.

D3) Explicit atheism

Explicit atheism is the absence of theistic belief due to a conscious rejection of it. Strong atheism (sometimes also called positive atheism) claims that the statement ‘there is at least one god’ is false, which means gods or the God does not exist. There is nothing that cannot be understood at least in principle is a true statement. The reasonable nonbelief in God is based on the lack of evidence. It is therefore irrational to believe in supernatural beings. People believe in God, not because he exists, but because of other reasons. God memes offer a good explanation where memes are seen as elements of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which are transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The gathering of all relevant knowledge is accomplished by employing the scientific method. Strong atheism shares many values with humanism, rationalism, materialism and naturalism. Atheism is seen as superior to religions.

D4) Atheist fundamentalism

The cosmos we observe has precisely the properties we should expect and there is no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. God or any other deities do not exist. Natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations. Natural science is capable of describing all reality and knowledge and when doing so it clearly leads to atheism. Therefore the belief in God is a delusion while religion should be seen as a obscurantist, dictatorial and oppressive force and the world would be a better place without it. Atheist fundamentalists typically reject classifications of atheism. They often also reject classifications of various forms of religions, as they are seen as minor variations of the same religious delusion. They argue that atheism and spirituality cannot coexist, because any concept of spiritual atheism is fundamentally flawed. The word spirit refers to the supernatural and has therefore to be rejected.

Blackberry's avatar

Well…..what are you when you’re a mix between every form of those atheisms lol?

ETpro's avatar

@Blackberry A secuhumadeisatheist soup? Or maybe just another mystified traveler like me. :-)

@mattbrowne I really want to give you a GA for writing all that, but it’s just not responsive to the question. I think the atheist need a category that I would leave it up to you to name. There are those that fall close to category D4 but most certainly don’t look at the granduer of the Universe and the depth of the mysteries and majesty surrounding us whenever we probe deeply into even the simplest seeming things and think to themselves, “no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

Paradox's avatar

@mattbrowne Looks like you’re not the only one who has dealt with dogmatic atheism.

@ETpro That response by mattbrowne had a similar purpose to mine but he probally did a better job with it than me. I think it was a good idea to seperate different belief/lack of belief systems here because there are so many. Most theists aren’t creationists or even people of faith. I do not believe it is fair for someone to say “though I’m not saying all people of faith are bad my experiences have been that atheists in general are much more tolerant than people of faith”. That was the entire purpose of my own classifications and I know I’ve left many religions out of my post.

There are so many different religions, spiritual beliefs and belief systems even within the same religions themselves (denominations) that there is no way someone could make a fair statement when deciding that atheists are more tolerant than believers or vice versa. Yes I live around creationists and my experiences with them when I tell them I have my own belief system in god but no thanks (when they try to hand me their pamphlets,etc) have not been very positive. My experiences with most other Christians or people of faith however have been very positive but yes there is that fundamentalist and even conservative element. In person my experiences with atheists (I’ve worked with some when I worked out of my area) have been somewhat shaky as well even though I avoid bringing up these issues about my beliefs unless someone specifically asks me. I’ll admit my experiences with atheists are somewhat limited. Online (not specifically Fluther) I see many atheists treat other people like crap even people who aren’t religious extremists. I see them attacking peaceful spiritual people as well. All someone has to say is something like “I think my deceased mother came to me in a dream” and bam they have to swarm like killer bees and attack these types of statements even without provocation.

I can see attacking religious extremism and criticising certain religious claims when trying to mix them in with science without evidence or investigation. Personal things such as I have mentioned however they have no business attacking that. This is why I would never mention personal experiences myself online in regards to this subject. Now if certain experiences are the main issue in a certain topic then I fully respect their rights to question these claims but I’ve seen too many “sceptics” (usually atheists) go well above and beyond the call of duty to attack anything they don’t agree with even when it’s not affecting them or even when it’s not the main topic.

I have to disagree with you here, from my own limited experiences atheists are just as intolerant as the religionist extremists they condemn and are less tolerant overall than the majority of theists/believers. If religious people want to be respected they need to show the same respect and tolerance back. If atheists want to be respected more they do need to show it back themselves. I’ve seen many atheists get very nasty even with little provocation.

ETpro's avatar

@Paradox It’s probably hard to judge since we only experience the intolerance of those who don’t share our views. So if you say you believe in God, you are going to get arguments about your beliefs more often from atheists than theists. If you say you’re an atheist or agnostic, you get the attack treatment from theists. Having spent the first half of my life on the theist side and the second half on the atheist, I stand by what I said. I also think that when someone challenges the logic or evidence base for a belief, that isn’t the same as attacking the person.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Well, I wanted to point out that there’s plenty of tolerance and intolerance on both sides. This was the question. So implicit and enlightened atheists are more tolerant than religious conservatives and fundamentalists and vice versa. The “no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” is a quote from

There are other even stronger quotes such as “To describe religions as mind viruses is sometimes interpreted as contemptuous or even hostile. It is both. I am often asked why I am so hostile to organized religion” or “to an honest judge, the alleged convergence between religion and science is a shallow, empty, hollow, spin-doctored sham”.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t quibble with the fact there are atheists that feel that way. Just the idea that confirmed, pretty-sure-there-is-no-god atheists have to fall into that camp.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – You are one of the very nice atheists ;-)

By the way, Dawkins also said “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world”. I wonder how he explains Newton, Mendel and Lemaître. These people even saw it as their religious duty to understand God’s natural laws. Dawkins observation does not match empirical evidence. What an unscientific approach used by a scientific genius like him.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I think Dawkins would explain them, and accurately, by claiming that they were religious in the way that someone who eats fish claims he’s “basically vegetarian.”

Religion is, by it’s definition, based on surrendering your understanding of the world to the guidance of another in the same way that science is based on accepting that understanding of the world can only be based on consistently refined and objectively (to the extent possible) verifiable analysis. How people invest in either “strategy” is what makes the difference, but technically, as strategies, they are mutually exclusive.

@Paradox – I have had many of the same experiences as you with dogmatic/aggressive/fundamental atheists. It’s important to realize both (1) despite those observations, it is fallacious to describe “atheism” as being based on an acceptance of any belief or belief system, objectively, and (2) subjectively, the dogmatic approach comes from, much of the time, frustration with lack of diligence in others, and from that ends up seeming like the same sort of lack of diligence.

To the first point, I like to think of atheism as a critical approach that is probably better described in a general sense as theistic skepticism that is, much of the time, areligious. “Atheism” is an unfortunate word as it literally means “against theism.” Of course, belief in god shouldn’t be something that atheism claims is impossible – rather, it should be understood that belief in god, as with belief in anything, should not be considered reasonable or necessary without evidence.

To the second, many atheists have to deal with a prejudice in terms of their worldview that is unparalleled. So many people react with shock at a statement that someone is an atheist – it suggests popularly something more than saying “I don’t believe in god.” It’s simply exhausting to constantly have to justify a position to people that can’t believe you just made that assertion when it is something that is already justified. In so many ways, it’s like having to justify the statement “I don’t believe there are parallel universes.” Imagine having to do that over and over and over again – and have a lot of people act as if your belief that there were no parallel universes was repulsive.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Part and parcel with my atheism is the fact that I believe Richard Dawkins to be a brilliant scientist and speaker, but not God. :-) I think that @iamthemob has given you an excellent guess at how Dawkins would respond to your question.

@iamthemob You have very succinctly defined my own brand of belief. Thank you.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – Religion is, by it’s definition, based on surrendering your understanding of the world? What definition are you referring to? And why would

who was a priest, propose what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’ if he surrendered his understanding of the world?

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Oh, he sure is a brilliant evolutionary scientist. But when it comes to his aggressive form of atheism we can speculate whether he might be infected by the very same mind virus he’s advocating. Well, maybe he’s just a poor philosopher.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Blondesjon LMAO…....... best answer of the month!

@MissAnthrope excellent question!

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I think that your question must be based on the fact that you’re collapsing “Religion as practiced by an individual” and “Religion.” Citing an example of how a person who was religious approached explanations of natural phenomena is exactly what I said was not what I was discussing when I talked about religion.

Religion may appear to offer freedom in how we approach the world, but it’s under a guise…religion states “here is the answer…it is up to you to figure out what that means.” Of course, if you think you have…then you’re locked in as it comes from God. Religious or spiritual beliefs can influence, guide or in some other ways augment scientific exploration – but that’s not religion. Again, religion at any one point is a set of beliefs based on certain generally unwaivering truths that claims absolute authority for the reasons for creation, life, and the definitions of morality. Science, on the other hand, claims no moral authority, and claims authority not over the reasons, but the methods, and stresses that it’s methods may reveal one explanation, but later on improvement demonstrate a fuller or even contrary explanation, but that explanation will be verifiable by all. Therefore, they are mutually exclusive systems.

I think that the fact that they are mutually exclusive is revealed by how certain members of the scientific community use aspects of religion in contrast with how certain members of the religious community use science. Consider someone like Ken Miller. Miller will often discuss profound findings in evolutionary theory, but emphasize that the findings are not mutually exclusive from any concept of a creator god (e.g., in discussing how two separate pairs of chromosomes in a primate species were identical to a single pair of chromosomes in humans, indicating a common ancestor humans split from when the chromosomes became fused, Miller stated that this was evidence of evolution and that a strict creationist perspective was not valid unless you believed in a God that was intentionally deceptive for some reason). On the other side are the creationists who built the creationist museum, which claims to show the scientific evidence of creationist “theory,” all the time repeating the mantra “interpretation, interpretation, interpretation of the data.” Of course, the interpretation they reach is the product not of a null hypothesis, as required be science generally, but of confirmation bias in interpreting the data to prove their already accepted theory.

So, using general terms – when the scientist believes in religion, it does not delineate his scientific research nor skew his results, and he modifies his belief in the religion based on findings, relying on science for the answer – which makes the two mutually exclusive, as one is suited for the answer, and one is suited for the reason why (the how/why dichotomy). When the religious put science to work, the religion requires that data received be interpreted to support what is stated in sacred texts to be the truth, and contrary data is disregarded, and therefore the science is modified to support the religious dogma – and because this is not, in fact, science…the two are again mutually exclusive as “religious science” undermines any scientific aspect of the data interpretation.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – I read Ken Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution” and I’d say there’s an 95% overlap with my views. I have a slightly different understanding of revelation which he also covers in the book. So you read his book too?

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I haven’t actually. But I went to Brown and took my main biology requirements with him…he was kind of ubiquitous there.

choreplay's avatar

Wow, this isn’t a hot topic is it. @Msanth, Yes I think your right.

Nullo's avatar

The way I see it, wanting to convert people to Christianity is the only humane thing to do – saving lives and all. It’s part of the doctrine. A Christian who doesn’t isn’t behaving as a healthy Christian.

Understanding, yes. ‘Tolerant’ where it means a non-hostile approach.

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