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KatawaGrey's avatar

Atheists: How do you judge theists?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21467points) July 21st, 2010

Do you evaluate theists on an individual basis before you judge them or do you assume they are unintelligent until you have spoken with them? I have known atheists on both sides and some who are baffled by how rational some theists such as myself can be.

So, Jelly atheists, how do you judge theists?

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55 Answers

whitenoise's avatar

I don’t judge them, since I feel there is so much more to a person than his/her just or unjust beliefs.

Theists that use the bible to advocate all kinds of kreepy intolerance or claim moral superiority, I’ll raise a warning flag on, though.

TexasDude's avatar

I’m an agnostic that leans towards outright atheism sometimes, so take from my opinion what you will.

I really don’t mind. I think that Christian bashing is rapidly becoming passe’. I think that people should be free to believe whatever the hell they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone.
In my view, that’s part of the social contract of living in a free society. Christians, theists, Muslims or whatever can believe and do whatever they want, but they have to be prepared to suffer the consequences if they overstep their bounds.

And for the record, I don’t care what anyone believes, as long as they seem to be a decent and good person.

meatheadbox's avatar

How is theism/atheism rational? All arguments are inconclusive…It’s not rational to base one’s beliefs on uncertainty principles. If you are agnostic then you can’t lean in any direction as agnostism would be neutral state in the matter, not knowing and never knowing. If you lean in one direction (atheism), you’re a skeptic based on faith and uncertainty principles, if you lead the other way(theism), your a believer based on faith and uncertainty principles.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think people are afraid of annihilation, and are desperate to feel that their existence has not been in vain, so they believe that in some way, they will live forever, and that there’s something beyond themselves that will help with this, but in a framework they’re familiar with, like a great mother or father.

And then atheists don’t want to childishly believe something that, on its face, resembles a tale not unlike that of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Granted, the cannibalistic element of Christianity isn’t quite Santa Claus, but it’s a story just the same.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@aprilsimnel: I’m surprised by your answer. So, because I am a theist, do you assume I am a sad, desperate person?

Edit to add: I’m not being sarcastic nor am I offended, I am just honestly curious if this is how you feel about all theists.

Cruiser's avatar

Same way I judge anybody I meet…by their actions. Theist are no more or less capable of rational actions than anyone else so beliefs systems to me are irrelevant.

tinyfaery's avatar

Theist is a very vague idea. I cannot equate a devout Catholic with a Wiccan or a Buddhist. And it is just an idea. Our actions define us more than our ideas. However, I must admit that I have a lot of prejudices (I admit it. And my prejudices are not good.) against certain theists who align themselves with ideas that persecute and harm others. I not only find some theists lacking in reason but also in character.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Penis size, definitely.
Fine, individually

KatawaGrey's avatar

For the most part, these answers are very heartening. I myself am a Wiccan, a fact I do not divulge often because people even the lovely tolerant ones often have a nasty knee-jerk reaction about not only my being a theist, but my personal spirituality. On occasion, someone has expressed surprise that I am so stupid as to actually believe anything like this.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I guess that means I’m exempt from judgment. :P

Aspentroll's avatar

I have been an atheist for many decades, some of my friends are involved in religion in one way or another. I won’t be preached at and they seem to realize that. My main concern are people like Palin, Huccabee and other overly zealous theists who wish to push their invalid ideas on others. Religion should be in churches only, not in schools and government. We have too much too lose if the religions are not kept at bay. Islam is total madness and Christianity although not so problematic is still too much in our faces. We cannot allow primitive fearsome views about life to interfere with our future. Science would be put on the back burner if Creationism is taught to our chlidren.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KatawaGrey I didn’t say it has to be your penis.

DominicX's avatar

I’m not an atheist per se, but I don’t judge dedicated theists until they decide that their belief system should determine the law of the land and can be an excuse for persecution, war, and discrimination.

wundayatta's avatar

I go to the closet, and put on my robes. I wear a wig when I’m feeling particularly serious. Then I go to the room where I’ve built a mock courtroom and sit on the judge’s throne. I proceed to judge all the theists, one by one, as they are presented to me. Most of them are guilty. It’s off the tower with them, to await execution. Although usually, when I go to the throne room, I commute the sentences and send a warning notice to the judge. But he feels pretty independent from the king, and it’s hard to threaten him with any punishment, since anything that befalls him also befalls me.

cockswain's avatar

I won’t automatically dislike someone for theist beliefs, but may find it best not to discuss that subject with them. But on some level, yes I judge that person. Right or wrong, I reason how can anyone decided to believe anything unproven and live there life as though it is unquestionably true? I think such an attitude is (ironically) close-minded and prevents one from understanding the world as it truly is by self imposing illusions about how one wishes it were instead. I think it takes greater bravery to view the world as though we could in all likelihood have no experiences at all after death. To fervently believe otherwise is more to comfort fear IMO.

Sorry if I’m coming off as a giant asshole again.

anartist's avatar

For the enlightened intelligence they bring to their beliefs and the observation thereof. No one ever said a believer had to be a cretin, no one said an observer had to be a believer. And for the discretion and good manners with which they exercise those beliefs.

I believe no one should ever accept proselytizing from anyone, no matter how loved or revered.

There is a certain majesty to the accumulated cultural assets developed by a long-standing religion that is a great contribution to the human race and not to be dismissed lightly.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Aspentroll: It seems just as dangerous and judgmental to say “Everyone who believes x is a complete loony and we just shouldn’t listen to them at all.” I also believe that religion should stay out of the government and schools, but that’s not what my question was about. My question was about how you, as an atheist, judge a person who believes in a a god or has a personal spirituality. Though you certainly answered my question quite well in a different well.

@cockswain: My mother and I both believe in various gods and spiritual beliefs and have no idea what will happen after death. I do believe something will happen after death but the way I see it, if there’s nothing after death, I won’t care because I’ll be non-existent and nothing will bother me.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Judge my boyfriend’s penis then. We will not be found wanting. ;)

aprilsimnel's avatar

@KatawaGrey – Not sad. Scared. I think many people are frightened of death and for many having a belief in a god alleviates that fear, that’s all. The stuff about flowers and rainbows and miracles is just decoration.

I think many atheists/agnostics are also scared of death, but they’ve just decided to either live with that fear or to alleviate it with some other belief. Meh, I could be wrong. If there is an old bearded white guy at the end of it all at a gate telling me I’m going to visit a guy in a very warm place with a pair of hockey sticks for me, thems the breaks.

anartist's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir is there a theism to Wicca? I thought it was more a belief in a benevolent power which could be learned by Wiccans? Where is the godhead?

tinyfaery's avatar

Wicca is polytheistic.

cockswain's avatar

@KatawaGrey This is where I get hung up. I would love it if there were various gods and spirits I could interact with, maybe spend time with in an afterlife. But I’ve never seen any proof. What are these gods? Why do you think they are real? sorry for going off topic

KatawaGrey's avatar

@cockswain: See, this is where I run into a problem. Again, what I define as proof is different than what you define as proof. If you promise not to mock me and pick apart my arguments and simply agree to disagree with me about what I consider proof, I will pm you.

@anartist: The basic tenet of the god aspect of Wicca is that there is no division between good and evil indeed, it is impossible to accurately define either and separate the one out from the other and that every god or goddess is an aspect of a greater deity. In a sense, each and every god and goddess exists, but they are also part of a whole.

cockswain's avatar

Sounds good to me, as long as you don’t mind getting asked many (very polite) follow up questions.

Ivan's avatar

I tend not to.

Aster's avatar

@KatawaGrey “I do believe something will happen after death but the way I see it, if there’s nothing after death, I won’t care because I’ll be non-existent and nothing will bother me.”
I agree !! I’m sure there IS a sort of life afterwards but I’ve experienced “proof” (with a witness) so I have an unfair advantage. So you do have a surprise in store!

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Aster: I have actually spoken to a woman who described, in great detail, an experience wherein an angel spoke to her and she converted to Judaism.

Aster's avatar

@KatawaGrey That is fantastic but I wonder if the angel directed her to convert to Judaism from ???? What was she before she converted?
Too bad very few people believe in Any contact with angels, etc when it’s claimed by someone. In fact, I can imagine doubting them too; I’d have to hear them and judge from there. My grandmother saw and described ghosts but didn’t say they spoke a word.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Aster: I believe she was a lapsed Christian like so many of us are. I think the problem with many people is that when they hear the word “faith” they shut down. For example, I have no “real” proof that China exists. I have met people who claim to come from China and say the sounds they make are the Chinese language, but as I have never been to China nor do I know how to speak Chinese, I have no “proof” that these people are telling the truth.

Yeah, I know I sound silly, but that’s kinda the point.

whitenoise's avatar

@KatawaGrey That story on China does indeed sound silly. It takes away from your real message even, I feel. Doubting the existence of China is of a total different order from doubting the existence of (a particular) god.

In anyway, my issue that I have, every so often, with theists is when they claim that virtue and definitions of what is good and what is wrong stem from God. That makes no sense regardless whether you believe in a god and on top it gives me the feeling that they wouldn’t trust me to do the right thing.

In my experience, theist often believe that the only reasons to act righteous, or live a good live, are founded in a belief in God.
(That has happened to me very often on my trips to the Middle East. Even to such an extent that when asked, I would lie about my atheism and tell people I am a christian.)

KatawaGrey's avatar

@whitenoise: Well, there a goodly number of theists who do not fall into that category so it is not only unfair, but also inaccurate to say that theists in general take their morality from a god and assume that you have no morality.

Also, the China example was meant to say that just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it for yourself doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

whitenoise's avatar

I didn’t say most theists treat others that way. Maybe most in the middle east, but surely not most that I meet in the rest of the world.

My impression is that with your China example, you are implying that things cannot be known for sure and you seem to present that as an argument that all proofs are equally valid, regardless.

From a reasonably logical perspective, however, it is a lot easier to provide information that will make the existence of China likely than to provide information about a deity with a similar ‘power to convince others’.

The likeliness of China’s existence has nothing to do with the likeliness of a deity’s existence. Linking them is a fallacy and therefore undermines your argument. You may be right about your proof, but your China example doesn’t help in convincing me.

Aster's avatar

China exists. And moral, kind atheists are quite common! maybe I don’t get the point
@whitenoise do u want proof of God? You cannot be convinced. You have to decide for yourself if you believe it . Maybe in 15 years you will. Maybe not. Whatever meets your needs.

whitenoise's avatar

@Aster I didn’t ask for proof. I just pointed out on an invalid reasoning. I am not here to convert, nor to be converted. I just try to answer a question and have a discussion. I have nothing but positive thoughts for the others here on this thread.

downtide's avatar

I judge them by what they say and do when they’re not talking about their religion. How they actually live their lives. I judge atheists and agnostics in exactly the same way.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@whitenoise: I wasn’t trying to prove that anything exists or does not exist. I was simply trying to point out that just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Make sense?

whitenoise's avatar

That in itself makes sense, of course. It says no more or less than that.

But let’s not allow this line of thought to carry away too much from the topic you are interested in… how do atheists judge theists.
(Which I hope I made clear is not done based on their being theists or not.)


ratboy's avatar

We defer to God on that score.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t judge them, for the Lord hath said, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” And even though I am an agnostic leaning toward atheism, I believe Jesus was right about that. He was a great thinker who gave a clear vision of a positive way to live life.

Now, in a debate, I will refute false logic when I encounter it, but that doesn’t mean I dislike the person, even when they refuse to budge on their cherished belief after being shown a clear logical error in it. I’m human too. I know how easy it is to let ego supplant logic.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@ETpro: I find it ironic that you speak of ego yet assume you are correct.

netgrrl's avatar

I try not to judge them. I think each person finds their own comfort level where this is concerned. I can see where that belief system benefits some people. If it works for them, that’s fine.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I am not quick to judge. The majority of the people I know and/or have met are theists – so it would be ridiculous for me to lump them all into one judgment. I agree with the previous posts in that I absolutely understand what people get out of religion/spirituality and also why they are inclined to believe what I find to be absolutely unbelievable. I don’t think it has anything to do with intellect. I don’t think that theists are “unintelligent.” I do believe it is a NEED to believe in something, but I’m alright with that.. and I would never judge someone negatively for that reason alone.

Now, on the flip side, as a staunch atheist I am frequently chastised for my beliefs. Many (not all, of course) theists seem to feel really comfortable telling me that I am “evil” or “foolish” or that they “feel sorry” for me. I find that pretty offensive. On the other hand, people that say “god bless you” or “I’m praying for you” do NOT offend me, because those seem like nice intentions to me. I like what Jesus had to say. I think that a world in which we love our fellow man and act out of goodness of heart would be awesome, if more people actually applied their beliefs to their daily lives. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough peace and love come out of religion compared to judgment and hate. And that bit makes me sad. So I guess that is my judgment. I could care less what you believe or how much of a hypocrite you might be, but when you use it as a weapon or an excuse to judge or hate others… then I have to draw the line.

ETpro's avatar

@KatawaGrey Your statement is an assertion of what you believe to be a fact about me. You assert that if I believe a statement of mine to be right, I am an egotist. Now, if you believe your own statement, then you have condemned yourself of the same crime. Perhaps that’s what the Jesus meant with his warning to judge not.

I am not talking about the subjective here. There are things that are objectively correct, and there are things that are simply not correct. It is not possible to function in life without thinking that at least some things are true. Believing that 1 + 1 = 2 doesn’t confirm that I am an egotist.

The sun does not rise in the East and set in the West, even though it seems to. The Earth is not the center of the Solar System. These are irrefutable facts, but both were once held to be falsehoods. Ultimately, the false assumptions could not stand before the evidence. Today most of us still speak of the Sun rising and setting, but we know that what is really happening is our Earth is rotating and creating that impression. And though the heavens seem to revolve around our Earth, we all now know that the Sun is the center of planetary orbits, not our planet.

Believers can believe just because they wish to do so. But we are talking here about those who chose to debate their beliefs—to convince others that their theology is THE ONE. Defending a theology demands one build a logical structure. If there is an obvious contradiction in that structure, it is a flawed structure. Defending it even when the flaw is pointed out is ego in action. Admitting the flaw, going back to rethink your position and question whether it is perhaps wrong, or just poorly thought out and in need of improvement is the intellectually honest thing to do But is not a common trait of mankind. Most humans will cling to cherished beliefs despite significant evidence they are wrong. Look at how long it took the Catholic Church to finally admit the Earth was not the center of the Solar System, even though there is nothing in the Bible claiming it is.

@TheOnlyNeffie Great Answer. I wish I’d said that. :-)

Rarebear's avatar

I haven’t taken the time to read through the thread, so I apologize if this is a repeat. My best friends are theist. I don’t judge them, and they don’t judge me.

AstroChuck's avatar

I don’t judge anybody. I guess that kinda makes me Christ-like. :)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey Interesting question and some equally interesting answers. I don’t know what to believe, so how could I ever judge someone else for what they believe? I lean towards believing in nothing, but I don’t really have a great reason why. What the heck, penis size might be the best answer you got, but which size?

Qingu's avatar

There are a lot of different kinds of theists; I don’t blanket-judge them.

Many people who claim to be “theists,” when their beliefs are examined, turn out to basically believe the same things I do as an atheist.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey I see you’re putting together a comment, but something struck me as funny while you’re doing that. You and Simone have been educating me on the sexist side of society. Guess which three went right to the penis size? :)

KatawaGrey's avatar

@ETpro: What I meant by my statement that it was egotistical to assume that I am wrong in what I believe simply because you “know” I am wrong. I am not so stupid as to think that 1+1=/=2. I just think that just because science can’t prove the existence of something right now doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m not trying to force my beliefs on you or anyone. In fact, I rarely talk about my beliefs to any but those closest to me because people have a tendency to react badly to a) my being a theist and b) my being a Wiccan.

@Adirondackwannabe: Haha, I thought of that myself. :P Comparing vagina size would just be kinda messy.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey I’m not going to touch the vagina line because I’ll just get into too much trouble. I think it’s cool your a Wiccan. Makes as much sense to me as anything else.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: The whole thing with Wicca, at least, what I take out of it, is to be in harmony with your environment and those who live in it. One of the basic tenets is to do no one harm, not even your enemy.

I also suspect that militant atheism is a direct response to militant religiosity. I’m not exactly militant in my beliefs; they just fit better with me than any other belief system.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey That is very moving. I was going to PM you so I didn’t catch any flak from the militants, but screw em. I haven’t studied Wicca, but that’s basically how I try to live each day. Maybe that’s why I should have chosen “keep it civil” for my name. :) The militants and fanatics on any issue always seem to think they know what’s best for everyone. (shakes head sadly).

ETpro's avatar

@KatawaGrey Check back over what I originally said above. I never said I would claim someone is wrong to believe what they believe about spirituality. I am an agnostic. With no position on whether there is a soul or not, a afterlife or not, a deity or not; it would be pretty silly for me to condemn someone for believing one way or the other. I said that in a debate with a theist, I will loint out logical gaffes. If someone tries to convince me that a blatantly contradictory statement is true, I will stand my ground and try to demonstrate that it is not true on the merits of their argument.

If a theist, for instance, proclaims, “There definitely is a God and I can prove it.” I might ask them for their proof, and if it has logical holes in it—which every one I have heard does—I would point out those flaws in logic. If, on the other hand, someone says they believe there is a God because they feel His presence, or some such subjective explanation, I would have no bone of contention with that. I am as sure they do feel it as I am sure that isn’t concrete proof they are feeling something that really exists.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@ETpro: I apologize. You are correct, I did not understand you previous statement. I have been cowed. :)

ETpro's avatar

@KatawaGrey Thanks and glad to be exonerated. You have shown great character, and I will do my utmost to return the favor the next time you catch me misinterpreting something.

mattbrowne's avatar

@KatawaGrey – Schizophrenia can sometimes lead to so-called religious experiences. You mentioned that you met a woman who described, in great detail, an experience wherein an angel spoke to her. Very likely she really heard the angel talking to her. People usually don’t make this up.

I’m a theist, but I never heard any voices. It’s not a requirement.

I don’t judge atheists and most well-meaning atheists I know don’t judge me.

Ron_C's avatar

I don’t judge them, it’s not my job. Besides they do enough judging for and about themselves they don’t need me to butt in.

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