Atheist/Anti-theist dogma?

Now, maybe dogma isn’t the right word, but I was thinking as I read this thread: Arguments you’re tired of hearing from fundies? I just happened to notice that many Atheists seem to have refutations ready in ‘stock’ for certain annoying and repetetive fundie issues.

Now, I’m not so stupid as to think that there needs to be anything other than a stock answer for a stock question, and I appreciate that the right answer is the right answer no matter what, but having heard quite a few atheists come out with the same comments as each other word for word, it made me wonder if some of it could be described as something like dogma.

So, what do you think?, remember this is IMHO, not GD and yes, I know that religious people have a tendency towards dogma, that much is established (I’m not trying to start an argument on who is more dogmatic).
<runs for cover>

I think you have a valid point.

Atheism is negatively defined–the concept wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a “Theism” or two to be “A” about, and most atheists have a concept of the God in which they disbelieve, usually drawn from the literalist/fundamentalist end of the Believer spectrum (from which the more annoying prostelytizers come).

The most commonly recurrent exception is the “Ockham’s Razor Atheist” who does not outline a God in which to disbelieve but merely says that she or he has experienced no phenomena for which the addition of a concept of God provides any needed explanatory element–so they prefer to go with the simpler model that does not include that concept.

Even here, though, there lurks the preconceived notion that a “God” is an explanatory theory for why something exists, which is not a part (or not a major part) of the theology of many of the more abstract folks who use the term or concept of “God”. (Consider “God” as a concept revolving more around “purpose” and “quality”, especially as distinct from categorizable and quantifiable assessments of same, for instance).

that’s a good point. i never thought about it like that before, but atheism is sort of its own religion isn’t. I think dogma has to be written down somewhere as being the official church policy so in that sense atheist don’t have one. But they do in the sense that they all basically share the same view points.

Now we need to be careful here, because I know that one of Ben’s points in the thread I mentioned above was that he’s sick of atheism being described as a religion in it’s own right.

Plus I think they would argue that they naturally share the same viewpoints simply because there are many ways to say that there is a God, but only one way to say that there isn’t.

Trying, struggling to be open-minded here.

And be careful when you say “Atheists share the same viewpoints.” The philosophies of Ayn Rand and Karl Marx, for example, aren’t very similar, for example.

Atheism can’t be considered a religion because:

  1. There are no unifying tenants to atheism
  2. Atheists don’t qualify for tax-free status. :smiley:
  3. Hi Opal!

Atheism is, at its core, simply the position that one does not believe in God. Whether that’s because you’ve mathematically concluded that God doesn’t exist, or you’re pissed off at the contradictions in the Bible, or you just want to annoy your Muslem parents, it’s irrelevant – you don’t believe in God, ergo you are an atheist.

AFAIK, the only people who bring up the “atheism is a religion” argument are fundamentalists who are trying to prove that atheists are just as irrational as they are. Unfortunately, munging a definition to prove a point doesn’t count…

I know Ayn Rand claimed to be an atheist, but didn’t she worship Mammon?

IANAA, but as a Pagan I get fundied more often than is probably healthy. Anyway, my favourite answer for a fundie question ever was as follows:

(me and my boyfriend at the time are talking about something faggy in a metro car)
Woman in metro: I couldn’t help but overhear you. I wonder if you’re aware that freedom from homosexuality is available through the power of Jesus Christ.
Me: I wonder if you’re aware that freedom from Jesus Christ is available through the power of homosexuality.

Then there was the other time I got one up on a Jehovah’s Witness by canvassing him during my election campaign. I don’t know if this qualifies as a stock answer, however.

Door-knocking religious person Hi, I’m here to tell you about the salvation that can be yours if you BELIEVE.
Me I’ll listen with an open mind to what you have to say if you’ll come to one of my Sabbats…
sfx of DKRP running away screaming

And you know what? They never come back. They knock at the neighbour’s house, go straight past mine.

That’s an honestly-meant offer; if one of them ever does take me up on it, I will listen to their stuff if they’ll listen to mine. I don’t expect them to convert to my (admittedly eclectic and slightly odd) pagan beliefs, but my conversion isn’t on offer either. It’s more an offer for an exchange of views than anything else.

However it’s also a stock answer, because the odds are no fundie Christian is going to be interested in why I believe what I do. It’s a way of cutting off conversation with those who aren’t interested while still leaving the door open on the off-chance that one of the DKRPs might be.

To shift it to the “atheist v fundie” viewpoint (can you imagine listening to the commentary on that particular wrestling match?), I can see the point of stock answers; after all, why bother engaging in a deep dialogue with someone who is not interested in your point of view, only in gaining another tally-mark on their stats sheet? Or, to put it another way, why would a fundamentalist sit down and debate with (not try to convert or make a believer of) a dedicated non-believer?

Stock answers are just shorthand for “I believe what I believe, you’re not going to change me, I’m not going to change you, let’s just walk away before blood pressures start to rise…”

a fixed, esp. religious, belief or set of beliefs that people are expected to accept without any doubts


a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds

A popular argument with believers (not necessarily christian fundies) is that initially they accepted some point on faith alone, but this was vindicated woth some sort of evidence (not necessarily tangible, but nevertheless convincing), is it their subsequent belief in that same point still dogmatic?.

Or is the fundie still being dogmatic if they have accepted the tenet as a result of thoughtful consideration?(Let’s not get into an argument about how uncommon that is) in the light of their own experience and (admittedly internal) logic.

I can’t honestly see much qualitative difference between that and when an atheist accepts a logical statement because it makes sense to them (albeit consistent with the ‘scientific’ view of the universe).

This is a brief hijack, and I’m sorry I’m doing it, but it’s important to remember (because people sometimes forget) than being an atheist isn’t the same thing as having a scientific view of the universe. There are atheists out there who don’t know anything about science, and some who are anti-scientific. Also, OTOH, there are religious people who were and are scientific, and expanded our view of the universe, such as:

Roger Bacon-A Franciscan friar who was one of the first people to do and advocate experimental science.

Nicholas Copernicus-a church canon who proposed the heliocentric theory of the solar system

Isaac Newton-an extremely devout conservative Protestant who developed universal laws of gravitation and calculus

Gregor Mendel-an Augustinian monk whose experiments with peas provided the basis of modern studies of heredity.

I just wanted to point that out, because in some people’s mind “atheist” and “scientist” have gotten crossed, and the two really don’t have much to do with each other.

FWIW, Isaac Newton was also said to be an Arianist heretic. But there’s little doubt that his work in the sciences proceeded from a desire to know more of the works of God.

Good point, although I’d also have to say that many of the pseudo-dogmatic refutations that inspired the OP are along the lines that the universe (as science shows us) is complete without a God.

This is an AWESOME strategy. We get door-to-door religious converter types knocking all the time and I’ve always dreaded talking to them (I hate confrontations!). I’m going to try that next time we get one and see what happens.

I think that this is to some degree prompted by insistence by some religionists that God is the ultimate answer to all science’s unanswered questions. We live in a society steeped in popularized science, with the media constatly blaring the latest cosmological results or the search for the origin of life in watered-down summary form.

Many religionists find little niches for God within their understanding of the scientific worldview (I believe God caused the Big Bang, and that evolution happens, but is guided by God, and since we don’t know how life started, I believe God created the first life on Earth.) Unfortunately, they come to believe that the role that they assign to God is a necessary role.

The God of the Gaps is a many-headed hydra: when science explains one phenomenon, presumably believed to be divine in origin, three new unanswered questions pop up, and believers are happy to chime “Goddidit!” once again, saving themselves the trouble of uncertainty and the strain of thinking about the problem scientifically, and forgetting the lessons of the past.

Why, just the other day, one of my husband’s coworkers trotted out her version of intelligent design: If the Earth was just a foot closer to the Sun we’d all burn up! Therefore God put us exactly where we should be! Therefore God exists! (I corrected her on the span of the Goldilocks region, then offered the Weak Anthropic Principle. Let her chew on that for a while–that one kinda creeps me out.)

Goddidit is never an acceptible answer in science, and (good) scientists of faith know it. But as long as believers promote their God of the Gaps, atheists (and scientists) are going to have godless answers: either, good, solid, scientific answers that the public may not have been widely exposed to, or, in some cases, speculations that nonetheless seek to answer the question rather than plug the hole with one more hydra-head. Call those speculations dogmatic, if you wish, but they are less dogmatic, IMHO, than the alternative.

Mangetout, atheism can’t have dogma, because there it is not a unifying belief. AHunter3 says it is a negatively defined concept, which is true. If theism never came to be, you would have atheism and atheists, but the position would not need to be labeled or defined. It only needed a label when an alternative arose.

Having stock answers is not having a dogma. You correctly note that stock questions don’t usually merit more than stock answers. What it boils down to is atheists (and any others caught under the microscope) want a way to bail without saying “You’re right, I’m wrong, now go away.” Because they don’t feel wrong, and because that would hardly be successful. So they hear a catchy response and memorize it to use, not because there’s some high atheist priest declaring all atheists must use this response, but because it beats saying “Go away, I don’t want your religion.” Plus, the beauty of the stock answers is that they really do take thought to counter, if they can be countered at all. Nothing like making the fundy have to turn on his processors for once.

Mangetout asks:

First there needs to be realized the distinction between a dogmatic individual and a dogma of a religion. Example: Catholic dogma about transubstantiation - the Eucharist (that’s Lord’s Supper to all the Protestants out there) is transmuted during the blessing to change into actual flesh and blood of Jesus. Whether or not any particular Catholic person believes in it, it is the church’s dogma. (Actually, that one may be outdated now, but it’s an example off the top of my head.)

So what about the fundy who claims to have a supporting event or circumstance to provide proof (in their own eyes, at least)? I think it’s really hard to talk about what’s truly in another person’s mind (and heart), but much easier to talk about their actions and statements. So I think we’d all be better talking about dogmatic actions. Apply that to atheists if you so desire and see what you come up with.

Although there are such things as Atheist societies and so on.

**This is the essence of my question (I’m not disagreeing with you here) - when an atheist trots out the well worn pink pixie/unicorn speech, is it something that they have thought about in depth at some point in the past, or are they simply reciting something they have accepted without much consideration? (is it safe to assume that the atheist always has the processors turned on?)

Okay, I think I see what Mangetout is getting at. (Forgive me, for I am enlightened not by the Holy Spirit and have only my own thinkmeat to work with. Sometimes it takes a while. :slight_smile: )

Do (some) atheists parrot sayings (stock replies, or whatever) without having thought them through? Do they hear or read a clever response to a dumb fundie argument, think, “Hey, that’s catchy!” and repeat it without ever really thinking carefully about it, researching it, etc.

No. Absolutely not. Never.

Okay, maybe sometimes. And maybe some atheists more than others.

Not every atheist is a cosmologist. Not everyone has a good response to “Oh yeah? There’s no God, huh? Then what caused the Big Bang? Huh?” So who can blame the layman for cribbing a bit from Hawking and intoning, zenlike, “There was no before the Big Bang. The Big Bang is without cause.” even if they don’t really understand what they’re talking about?

Nontheless, I would opine that atheists are grilled about their beliefs as often, and perhaps more often, and as thoroughly, if not more thoroughly, than your average religionist. We’re in the minority, aren’t we? And if we weren’t constantly get pelted with questions, we wouldn’t have stock (dogmatic) answers to so many of them.

I think that an atheist has more freedom if finds that his “dogma” doesn’t hold water. Say he’s arguing with a Hindu, and the Hindu’s karma runs over his–

Aw, nevermind. . .

Anyway, I like to think (and perhaps I’m wrong) that the atheist will be more likely than the religionist to think, “Hey, just a minute. I’m going to have to think carefully about this, and either discard it, or revise it.” See, he’s got more options than the religionist, who must accept dogma (or be a heretic, which, I guess, is an option.) He also has (well, in most cases) less of an emotional investment in his dogmas; discarding a dogma doesn’t mean that he’s going to hell, that Jesus in fact does not love him, and that that big ol’ book on the shelf is nothing but a pack of lies.

Of course, discarding a dogma is tough, nonetheless. It’s a comfortable belief, like an old pair of tennis shoes. And it means admitting that you’re wrong. That’s never easy.

But in the end, I think that most atheist dogmas are just less “dogmatic” than religious dogmas. Religious dogmas, are, after all, unprovable myths (atheist perspective, again, of course.) They’re stories that you have to accept without proof, made-up statements about other made-up things, whereas atheist dogmas tend to be scientific facts (evolution happens) or logically-obvious conclusions (If God doesn’t exist, I probably don’t have to worry about going to Hell).

There just isn’t much to 'em, because atheism isn’t a complex belief structure. To perhaps overburden etymology: NO GOD. That’s all she wrote. Atheism doesn’t require structured dogmas which posit a Holy Trinity, transubstantiation, the karmic wheel, dietary laws, the path to Paradise, etc.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn speech just doesn’t require a great deal of deep thought: Your God is neither provable nor disprovable and thus it’s ridiculous to beleive in Him, and the IPU is a “cute” (or infuriating) way for me to express that. (Though personally, I prefer the invisible dragon in Carl Sagan’s garage. :wink: )