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SuperMouse's avatar

Why do you think atheists on Fluther ask so many theological questions?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) April 15th, 2012

There are many, many questions here on Fluther regarding God and theology that are asked by self-professed atheists. Why do you think it is that so many folks who are very vocal in sharing their atheism ask so many questions about the belief it God? Many of these people are regular users so I am not convinced trolling is the only explanation. I am also not convinced that it is merely to gain insight into the thinking of theists because much of the time when theists share their opinions there seems to be a concerted effort to change these opinions.

I am not interested in a theist versus atheist discussion, I am interested in hearing opinions as to what might be behind this phenomenon.

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32 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Actually, I would bet it is to learn how people are thinking, or why they are not thinking.

augustlan's avatar

Some of them are probably trying to shake things up. Not trolling, exactly, but trying to get a ‘hearty debate’ going (sometimes I think this is right on the verge of trolling, though). Others may be doing a kind of proselytizing, trying to get what they see as ‘the truth’ out there. Others are genuinely curious.

Coloma's avatar

I think there are only two reasons. 1: To learn and gain insight and 2: as a segue into opening up ones own forum to prove their point.
There’s also the potentiality of door number 3…grievances looking for a cause…feel like bashing spiritualists, just open the can of worms and wait with baited hook. lol

thorninmud's avatar

Here’s my opinion: Lots (notice the qualifier) of atheists feel that they hold all of the strong cards in the debate. Because rationality is, for them, the gold standard of truth, there’s a certain fascination in these confrontations where their dazzling rational footwork is met with indifference.

I can’t help thinking of the “Black Knight” episode in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. To the swordsman, the victory seems indisputable, but the Black Knight refuses to die.

The two sides in this debate have completely different notions of what constitutes victory and defeat. The atheists are looking for a technical knockout, but the believers see it as a matter of spirit.

bea2345's avatar

Maybe it is because so much of religion is under attack by unbelievers, agnostics, being undermined by scandals, you name ‘em. This is an age in which Bible scholarship, and more recently, Koranic scholarship, is being published to a population that is largely ignorant of real scholarship. One consequence is that, for some people, textual criticism is evil, a work of Satan, because of the implication that holy writ can actually contain inaccuracies. I was always taught that the Bible was given by God, but transcribed by fallible man. That would account for the variations in the manuscripts and maybe some of the inconsistencies. If that is heresy, then I owe an apology to my Anglican Sunday school. To return to the thread of this argument, much of the attack on religion is due to the fact that, as a local columnist said recently, the religious bodies have to put their money where their mouth is. Attacking religion is not the province of atheists alone; it is also the business of believers who see their beliefs being sabotaged. Chief offenders: church leaders who do not “speak truth to power.” e.g. why are so many churchmen and -women preaching anti-abortion when the real problem is the prevention of abortion? What about responsible persons who refuse to publish my government’s Gender Policy because it includes a section on homosexuals? – as if LGBT people are going to disappear if we ignore them – in case you did not know, the West Indies has the highest HIV rates in the world after Africa.

mangeons's avatar

As @augustlan said, I think that many people do it because they know that it will start a heated, spirited debate. Not necessarily trying to start trouble, just trying to start a lively discussion. On the other hand, though, I also think many people are simply curious to hear a point of view different from their own.

Of course, there are some people whose only interest is to prove that they are right and others are wrong. However, I do not think that the majority of regular users here are those people.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Validation seeking.

GoldieAV16's avatar

I have a lot of questions about faith and religion, having come to atheism after decades of being first very religious, then really spiritual. I’m fascinated to know if others’ thought processes and inquiries have been anything like my own. I just don’t ask those questions “in public” because atheism is so despised in our religious culture. If I did ask questions, it would be to compare journeys and experiences, and also to further acceptance of non-believers. I have a lot of respect for anyone who has the courage of their convictions, be they arrived at through a leap of faith or not. Turning my back on decades of religious indoctrination was one of the scariest and loneliest experiences of my lifetime, but also one of the most freeing. Hearing from other atheists IS very validating for me…to know that I am not as alone as I’ve felt.

FutureMemory's avatar

RIght on, sister!

digitalimpression's avatar

I think it is for a few reasons:
1. Religious discussions are fun. Whether that is because the person is seeking validation, wanting to prove a point, wanting to bash someone else, or otherwise.. it’s just plain fun. It is a topic that is potentially (depending on your point of view) more important than any other topic.

†. Some atheists may actually retain an open mind towards the subject and want insight into why believers believe as they do. Perhaps they can sense (on some subatomic level) that there is at least a possibility that believers aren’t crazy.

Matthew 7:7–8
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

D. There are a few (on every side) who approach the subject with a sense of narcissism and elitism. These few enjoy a verbal tussle in which they perceive whatever version of victory they require in order to sate them. Ironically, this sort is largely insatiable.

§. Let’s just call this “other”. There are those who enjoy being assholes. There are those who are curious, insightful, thoughtful, and rational. There are those who want to play devil’s advocate. There are those who know that fluther is largely a non-religious, liberal forum and enjoy being on the fat side of the lopside. There are those who are bored. Those who are angry, sad, or ignorant. Those who are petty, pompous, pedantic, or pimple-faced (just to round out the “p” words), and everything in between. There are even some who fall into the bullet but don’t want to admit it (neither to themselves nor others).

» <—- no reason for this.. just started having too much fun with the alt+codes.

bkcunningham's avatar

God only knows. ~

JLeslie's avatar

I ask a lot of religious questions, I try to remember to add that I don’t want arguments on the Q, that I geniunely want to know the answers from the religious, many times I am specifically asking Christians, to understand their perspective and beliefs. Part of it is I find religions interesting. Part of it is in the US Christians influence politics, so I am trying to understand their intent, their experience. I feel like I am very misunderstood by the religious right in my beliefs and intentions, so I figure I probably misunderstand them. The only way to know is to ask questions, and have them answered by the religious people themselves, because people like me most likely answer based on assumptions or what people like me listen to.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s really pretty simple. These are questions that interest the askers. There are no ulterior motives. No secret desire to find faith. It’s just an interest in an issue and a desire to find out if others can shed any light on the topic.

Seek's avatar

As one of the people who ask the questions, I can only answer from my own viewpoint.

It’s for the same reason that I read a lot of books on world religions. Religion, on the whole, fascinates me. I was raised around a lot of conflicting religious viewpoints, held my own staunch beliefs for a long time, and reeled through the emotional turmoil when the loss of religion shattered my perceptions of the universe (in my opinion, for the better).

I want to know what people belive, why they believe it, and how it helps them relate to the world around them. I want to know the relationships between civilisations and their religions, why one population will worship women and another shun them, or why one would encourage promiscuity and another celibacy.

I also want to know why people don’t believe – were they raised without religion or did they come to their atheism through other means? What was the driving force that popped the bubble? How did they cope with the loss of faith? How did their families cope with the change? Their friends?

Maybe it’s simple nosiness, but I do really want to know the answers. Just like the search for any other knowledge, it’s ultimately to enrich my own understanding of the universe.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I’m fascinated by religion, and how it changes over time, how different peoples come to different conclusions, how their beliefs often reflect their larger community, what factors go into how a certain person and/or group choses one belief system over another, etc. I’m fascinated by the logic that is in religions (assuming you buy into the initial premise – that a deity or deities exist), and the lack of logic in religions. And while I myself do not believe, I would never deny that religion has and continues to be a huge, massive force in society. I often come into contact with things that totally befuddle me, and want to know why it’s different for (certain) religious people. And to a certain extent, it’s hard to figure out why people think the way they do without challenging them on it, without trying to dig below the first layer.

Seek's avatar

Oh, and before I come across as some kind of saint, I do want to admit that when I find a believer, I enjoy challenging their knowledge of their faith: it’s history, its tenets, and the works of the modern organisation carrying the name. This is usually with a religion that I perceive as ultimately negative or harmful to society as a whole.

Generally, I don’t mess with Wiccans, for example, because when you remove the deity from the equation, you’re left with a deep respect for nature and the single commandment “Do what you want, just don’t hurt anyone”. It’s hard not to at least respect their ability to leave everyone the hell alone, especially considering the bad rap they’ve gotten since their faith started gaining followers.

However, when people claim to have a god of love, whose own gospel (or its church’s recorded history) is full of destruction and oppression, I get a burning urge to rip some wool off some bitches’ eyes.

Little o’ this, little o’ that.

digitalimpression's avatar

@wundayatta Perhaps that’s true for you.

wundayatta's avatar

@digitalimpression That’s pretty much what I see everyone else saying. Do you see it otherwise?

Mariah's avatar

Religion hugely influences the world we live in. It’s not as though not personally believing means that religion isn’t a part of our lives. And as such, sometimes we like to discuss it too!

Fly's avatar

I’m surprised that so many of you think that there are some underlying or nefarious intentions of such questions. I genuinely believe that most of questions regarding religion that are asked by atheists who really are simply hoping to gain some insight into religion or are interested in religion, or if anything else, looking to start an interesting discussion.

Yes, sometimes the OP will challenge the views of those who answer, but I tend to think that this is often a miscommunication, and they are really looking for more clarification. (i.e. if the OP responds “But what about such and such?,” they really mean, “How can you ignore such and such for faith?” and not “I am clearly right because of such and such.”) Even when the OP does argue with posters in the thread, that was probably not the intention of the question itself; it’s just human nature to defend one’s beliefs, or lack thereof. I certainly don’t think that there is (generally) any ill intent behind the question.

I would also just like to add that there are similar questions asked by theists about atheism, and it is not always the atheists who instigate this back-and-forth.

digitalimpression's avatar

@wundayatta “There are even some who fall into the † bullet but don’t want to admit it (neither to themselves nor others).”

FutureMemory's avatar


@wundayatta It’s really pretty simple. These are questions that interest the askers. There are no ulterior motives. No secret desire to find faith. It’s just an interest in an issue and a desire to find out if others can shed any light on the topic.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@digitalimpression If you don’t want atheists telling you how they know better what’s in your head than you do, you might want to think about treating them the same way. Golden Rule and all.

tom_g's avatar

Why do you think atheists liberals/progressives on Fluther ask so many theological political questions?

wilma's avatar

I think we can often gain some insight into the askers motives by the way that they ask the questions and the answers they give.
When they ask thoughtful and respectful questions, without name calling then I think that they probably really want to learn about theists and their beliefs.
When they use put downs like name calling, such as stupid, moron, delusional, irrational, idiot, etc, then I think their motives are just to be a jerk or to try and perhaps prove that they are somehow smarter than a theist.
Thoughtful respectful discussion doesn’t have to degenerate into being a jerk (on either side of this debate) but it often, for some flutherers, it does.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know what to say, @digitalimpression. I didn’t understand your symbolic phrase. What does it mean to fall into a [symbol] bullet? It sounds like it must be some secret Christian code talk. Perhaps you would deign to translate? You make it sound like something shameful—like an addiction—something you wouldn’t want to admit to yourself or others.

Avocado's avatar

I don’t know, why do you notice* it? (To hark back to the OP)
*bring it up, I mean.

digitalimpression's avatar

@wundayatta I’m not sure what else I could add that would have any value to you. Perhaps if I keep responding you’ll get to 53k. That actually sounds like a plan. Wanna try?

Blackberry's avatar

Yep, psychology.

zigmund's avatar

I don’t ask religious questions here, but I do bash religious people almost daily on Facebook.
There’s this trend of christians to feel soooo persecuted (a ridiculous claim in a country that has religion on its money!) so I just make a point of not making them out to be liars.

Ron_C's avatar

I don’t know about others but I am trying to get a handle about why people have religious beliefs. I had them when I was young and was even an altar boy. The older I got the less I believed until when I got to my thirties. Then all belief just disapppeared. I don’t know why except that I learned more about the world and also delved deeper into the Bible. The more I learned the less I respected then entire institution of religion. I want to know why grownups still believe this stuff.

Paradox25's avatar

I think that most of us, irrespective of our beliefs, want to know why people think the way that they do. I have seen this trend in reverse on other sites, where it was Christians who would ask a lot of theoretical questions directed at nontheists or nonbelievers. I’m aware of the difference between theological and theoretical, but I’m just trying to make a point.

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