Vote For Who You Think Is More Obtuse: Cynical Atheists or Zealots

Come on! Do you really think you know it all!

All religion or none, both paths are thin lines

Well here's a subject I've wanted to touch on for a long time. I am a firm believer in something, some sort of natural, eternal force, some kind of everlasting energy. I am a believer. But, I don't believe I know, or anyone knows, exactly what is out there making the universe what it is. You may know in a visceral, definitionless way, in your heart, as I feel I do. But as far as the attributes and characteristics of A Deity, A God, A Goddess, I just don't know.

It's very difficult for me, as someone with an inquisitive nature, to listen to someone preach to me that not only do they know exactly what happens to us in the hereafter, but they can tell you to a tee what will happen once your heart stops beating. The individuals you will meet, the name of the place your spirit will reside and so on. They are so positive some of them are willing to kill others just to prove their point: zealots.

On the other hand, I have met many self proclaimed atheists who have assured me that even pondering "the quiet invisible" is a waste of time. That when you're dead you're done. There's no more, no encore, last curtain. What's more, they explain to me time and again, that religion is the cause of all the evil in the world, and that if people would abandon their beliefs in these made up Deities, the world would be a more peaceful place. My problem with that side of the token is that, despite what many atheists ironically preach, namely that humans don't need a strict moral code to be ethical, I believe many people do need a spelled out moral code. There just plain aren't too many charitable organizations created by the Secular Humanist group. There are some, but not enough to catch all the slack left over from governments that religious charities make up for in health care, housing and work training for the destitute. These firm nonbelievers are as conscienceless as the zealots but they are:cynical atheists.

Maybe I'm overreaching though, my point is, cynical atheists and zealots actually have one thing in common, they're both arrogant nincompoops. Give me dialogue with an secular humanist, an agnostic or an open-minded atheist any day, or a quiet conversation fishing in a pond with a noncondemnational religious person. So long as they're not sanctimonious, I'll listen to what they have to say. When I was younger I was so affected by the opinions of those around me. Opinions that as I grew older and looked back on, seemed so dull! So lifeless! Truly zealotry and jaded atheism are a sort of spiritual suicide, to me more sinful than physical suicide. Completely giving way to wild detailed religious expression is dangerous in that you let go of the faculties given to your mind. Just as an atheist who shuts out the light does their best to completely close the door on any spiritual reach. I used to tell my atheist friends the joke: the skeleton of the atheist leans over to the skeleton of the believer as they both lie there and says, "See, I told you so!". Apparently hedging your bets is not in the cards for many atheists. The only time I can understand the value of atheism is when I see that someone was raised in the house of a zealot and they have been so utterly turned off by that form of severe subjectivity that they just don't want to talk to anybody about anything related to The Great Spirit in any capacity. I just find it sad and boring, because I wish they would dare to divine an expression from within themselves. They might be surprised at what springs fourth from their heart.

I guess I find a great satisfaction in the fact that when a zealot tries to fill my head with all of his or her flavor of spiritual anecdote, I know in my heart that they are just as malignant and contrite as an arrogant atheist trying to tell me all my beliefs are worthless. Latitude is the key for me. Sometimes science is mislead, though less so than religious speculation from an empirical point of view. Mostly, I just enjoy hearing what people have to say. As long as it's not about killing and torturing, I'm into whatever the Spirit has brought to them. I'm a devotee of humans being good to each other. Whatever religious flavor you may subscribe to, or atheistic philosphy you hold up high, I hope you give others room for their expression too.

Update November 11,2013

Well it's been awhile since I wrote this very cavalier piece, and despite Aldous Huxley's advice from later editions of Brave New World I've decided to change a few things. Huxley's piece was fiction, and mine is, haha, I know this will burn somebodies bottom by saying this, fact! Anyway, it's been great interactiong with athiests and religious people over the years, I've learned quiet a bit and although much as changed for me, much has stayed the same. I still walk with Gitchie Manitou. I still am a Latitudinarian although I struggle between deciding if I see the world as more pantheistic or more panentheistic. I still love people and words. I still believe in heaven and sadly, hell on earth (the temporary man-made kind, not the zealatious forever and ever kind). Mostly, I've gained more repsect for the heart of athiests, agnostics and religious people. It's difficult to stay on any ship with any sort of flag, somebodies bound to do or say something stupid and then there you are, sailing on the same ship as them. You want to say, but no! We're on the same ship, but my interpretation of the flag is different! Haha, I love that analogy. Anyway, I've been accused of being starry-eyed which is so true, always have trouble keeping my head out of the clouds, chasing that nirvanic state, twisting in moments of zen and epiphany. I'm grateful that you might've come along, that we might have sparred a little, that may I thought you were a little crazy in your beliefs or observations and me in mine. It's good, to be alive. To feel love, to scrape off hate, to look a friend in the eye (without looking through your phone camera) to say, it's good to have this moment with you! So forgive me if my cavalier essay hurt your feelings, just trying to keep you (and myself) honest, and interesting. I am working on a companion piece for this essay, look for it soon, I will post a link here. Peace.

Who's more boring?

Who would you say is most boring, someone who doesn't believe in any God, someone who strictly believes their version is the only true tale or those who allow room for everyone at the table?

See results without voting

More by this Author

Comments 24 comments

Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

Sorry - I voted but clicked the wrong one! Atheists and Zealots can indeed both be a bore but probably the Zealot wins the prize.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Right there with you Catherine! Thanks for voting and checking out my verbiage! Ben

azziza 7 years ago

It,s nice to find this site ; I,ll be checking it daily!!!!

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Cool beans azziza, we're glad to have you here! Welcome!

Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

I think both extreme sides are horrible to listen to, but I think I'd rather listen to the zealot - at least they have something to believe in.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Good for you Duchess! I lean towards listening to the atheist struggle there godless argument. But mostly, I like it best when all sides are represented so I'm glad you chimed in here! I agree with you, both extremes are hard on the ears!

Niteriter profile image

Niteriter 7 years ago from Canada

The Anishinaabe people have stories of long tradition that include a deity by the name of Gitche Manitou (or, more historically proper "gichi-manidoo"). I think the North American aboriginal people were neither zealots nor athiests, just an intelligent representation of humanity who sought to make sense of their existence.

I would like to have known some of the thoughts of their great thinkers. Some days I ponder the possibility that I have.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Thank you for your warm observation Niteriter. I am honored again by your expression. I haven't been doing as much writing here as I would like lately, doing more side work to make ends meet. Thank God (pun intact) that I have a moment to read again about the Anishinaabe and Gitche Manitou. Cheers my friend.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Ben, I know that to be a 'good' hubber, you are supposed to become involved with the forums, but the insults and nastiness has driven me away. A kind and civilized discussion of religion and religious philosophy can be great, but that is a rare thing.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

I know what you mean Dolores about the forums Dolores. What's more, I just don't have much time on the side for babysitting nincompoops! It's difficult to get beyond the nastiness as you say. It seems that in my experience, with religion or politics, it's better to touch or hint on things, then get on with life. Diving deep into touchy convictions is a sure way to shut peoples minds off.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

"my point is, atheists and zealots actually have one thing in common, they're both arrogant nincompoops"

Lol..thanks! I call myself an atheist, mainly for convenience and because I have no real beliefs in the supernatural but I agree with you that 'we just don't know'...the universe is a mystery. To me, that's the only reasonable position to take.

One thing I do know..[or think I know], is that that mystery will be solved by science if it can be solved at all. As wyanjen said in one of her hubs:

"One answer at a time we have solved mysteries in the heavens without ever leaving the ground. THIS is profound. Much more so than a myth which dates back to a time before people could explain gravity."

Perhaps the reason atheists sometimes appear zealous and contemptuous is because they are affronted by the constant illogical and irrational arguments of believers. In many cases they're fighting a losing battle as I firmly believe religious belief is bound up with emotional need..and no amount of rational argument will conquer that.

Cheers was a very thoughtful hub

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

I learned a long time ago not to tell people what they "are" philosophically or politically but much like our buddy Arthur Windemere I think you both may need to go to AA (Agnostics Anonymous) but I mean that in the most endearing way of course. I appreciate, and in many ways share your inquisitive and unsure nature, although I lean more toward a roundly spiritual side. But I think with both you and AW I haven't expressed enough that I don't go into many churchhouses anymore unless it's at the request of a dear friend, and I don't subscribe to any religious administrations. I am a wholehearted believer in a living Great Spirit, one that I have a strong, vibrant and yes even rapturous relationship with. Much like ending a sentence with a preposition, I've never been one to abide by gregarious rules set out and modified by bureaucrats and what is for all practical purposes, pharisee.

I have had the pleasure and honor of hearing many peoples religious or nonreligious views and I almost always leave satisfied that I've learned something. But as you say, sometimes you learn something in the negative. The "illogical and irrational arguments" of which you speak are why I walk my spiritual trail alone. I wouldn't be accepted into many churches for my latitude when I feel that's a large part of our existence. I feel that I'm giving a bit of a hub away with the length of this doozy but I wanted to thank you with an equally warm and thoughtful response to yours.

I like to tell Atheists/Agnostics to explore the Native American Indian spiritual tradition for vigor and sincerity, there are many guided avenues to explore. Also, I like to tell Atheists/Agnostics that just because we give everything a name (scientific or otherwise) doesn't make it understood. After all water is what water is, whether we call it aqua or H20. Sometimes all our so-called intelligence steals the true magnificence from life.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore


You're just such a lovely guy I don't think I could ever argue with you about anything!

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Thanks Ms. Bovary you make me blush, I appreciate the kind and generous dialogue. I think you could argue with me, you seem open minded enough to me, thanks again for the kind compliment.

McHamlet profile image

McHamlet 6 years ago

I know I could but I'll try not to be a nincompoop about it')

I see where you're coming from Ben but I think you've misunderstood what atheism is in all its variations, and that the real distinction that needs to be made here is not between zealots and atheists and everyone else, but between zealots of all types, religious and non-religious, and non-zealots of all types, religious and non-religious. A zealot is someone who is fanatical in their beliefs, religious or otherwise; most atheists I know aren't like that at all; they won't come knocking on your door with a Richard Dawkins book in hand asking you if you will accept Charles Darwin as your saviour, nor will they ruin your fishing trip by telling you we have about as much chance of getting to the afterlife as the carp. No, they are simply everyday people who don't see enough evidence to believe in any kind of God; they are along for the ride but they think the ride is going to end sometime, for good. Wonder, the human spirit and Joy on the other hand are all well within play for atheists, the religious and everyone in between. I myself am a "I know I know nothing type'. Call me a procrastinator if you like (I could hardly complain with this moniker) but I'm simply not willing to commit. For those who are one way or another, that's fine with me too. As long as we don't shove our beliefs down each others throats or put each other in boxes and show a bit of common understanding there's no reason we can't all get along. So, while I respect your opinions I respectfully disagree.

Now let's go fishing. I promise not to invite Richard.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Thanks for the well thought out response McHamlet! I'm all for the not-shoving-our-beliefs-down-other's-throats school of thought! I guess the reason I was a bit cavalier with some observations was because I've been trying to pick the brains of non believers a little, but also to give zealots and other sanctimonious types a little kick in the pants. I think we see more eye to eye than at first it might seem!

Cheers and thanks for stopping in!


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

Zealots like some anti-abortionists who would shoot a person for going to an abortion clinic to kill a child? They are both zealots, aren't they?

One who allows room for everyone at the table? What happens after he/she listens? Does this person believe that all are correct or all matter even if they are not quite what someone thinks is right?

Atheists who press Christians to stop pressing them, who press Christians to "drop that Jesus nonsense" yet strive to insult, belittle Christians in the process?

Christians who sometimes know it all and sometimes do not quite know how to approach zealots and atheists, who sometimes beat zealots and atheists over the heads with their Bibles, who do not know that they cannot do their job and Heaven's, too?

So, you want me to vote on one of these? I suggest adding a bubble with "sometimes all of the above," but I do like a listener because that is how he/she learns what others know, believe, or do not know. He will still have the task of properly approaching others after listening.

One thing is definite: they ALL need and crave something greater than themselves.

Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

There is not anything wrong with sharing one's beliefs if the other is willing to listen, but if not, the sharer should move on. If what he had to offer was good, his job is done, and he should be satisfied, not angry.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 4 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Well said Levertis, you make a lot of good points. Listening is key, to be sure. Personally, I have many atheistic tendencies and beliefs, but I am firmly a believer, still not so much so that I believe any of my convictions to be zealous.

I like your suggestion for "sometimes all of the above" in fact, I'm with you on that one.

Also, when you said, "Atheists who press Christians to stop pressing them, who press Christians to "drop that Jesus nonsense" yet strive to insult, belittle Christians in the process?"

I think you hit the nail on the head there. Just as Christians and other religious evangelists condemn others of having beliefs that look different than their own. In my state of Wisconsin, for example, a native American girl was recently expelled (town of Shawano) from her private Christian school for saying "I love you." in her native tongue, I think it was the Ho-Chunk language.

Ignorance of that level shouldn't be repeated but still it persists.

Thanks again for your insight.


Dave 3 years ago

To me it seems you have a confused view of what an atheist is. Atheists are simply people who don't accept something as true without evidence. Doesn't mean they are closed minded. I presume you don't believe in fairys. Or perhaps you are agnostic about fairys and perfectly willing to accept that is entirely possible, and equally plausible, that they are living at the end of your garden. I used to think just like your article. I was raised with religion, and I realise that sometimes it can take a fair amount deprogramming before you can let the big guy go. A lot of people refer to themselves as agnostics when they are in a transitional period. Atheists do not claim to have knowledge of the certainty of no afterlife, they simply state that there is absolutely no evidence to support it. To suggest that someone's consciousness may survive the death of their brain is quite an extraordinary statement. Whether made by a theist or agnostic there is absolutely no reason to give any credence to the suggestion. The same can be said about the existence of a deity. This doesn't make atheists any less interesting as people, or less friendly, or loving, or charitable, or nice. It just makes them more honest, in my opinion.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 3 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

You've contradicted yourself Dave. You say atheists only accept something true if it is evident. Then at the end of your response you claim that it is extraordinaire to believe that our consciousness may survive death. Using the scientific model, and the Law of Conservation of Energy, it is required by scientific law that it is impossible to destroy our consciousness, it can only change forms. If you cannot assert your own consciousness as evident then every observation you have ever made, every test you have ever approved, is fallacious. I used to be like you Dave, raised religious, and teetered on agnosticism then embracing cynical atheism. Now I am friends with many free inquiry atheists, humanists. But I recognize a nihilist from a mile away, some of them go to church, some of them deny the existence of the great spirit. You are welcome to your beliefs and observations, my observations come from the taboos of science and religion and I am very fond of my existence. I have seen more love than hate, from atheists and believers alike and I am thankful mainly for that. One of the most ironic philosophical notions is that atheists can be just as, if not more, sanctimonious and full of hubris as zealots.



Dave Porter 3 years ago

Ben I disagree. I have not contradicted myself. Not unless there has been some new scientific breakthrough I have not heard about which states consciousness cannot be destroyed. Consciousness can be altered, with medication, or injury. Consciousness can be significantly altered in someone who is unfortunate enough to suffer severe brain damage. Memory's can be lost, personalities can be changed, just through brain injury alone. However if you damage the brain completely by killing it the consciousness can survive? Are you sure you are not applying some starry eyed philosophy to all this by stating that transference of energy is proof that a consciousness cannot die? I recognise a wish thinker when I see one. I do not have a problem with a little bit of superstitious speculation if it makes a person feel better about life, provided the line between known reality and speculation is clear. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever in an afterlife. This is a fact. I'm not suggesting that no afterlife is a favourable outcome, but I am saying there is no evidence for it. I cannot prove that an afterlife is not possible, in the same way that I cannot prove there isn't a planet made of cheese somewhere in the universe. To make such statements would mean I have to have an infinite knowledge of the universe, which of course I do not. I can, however state that it is a fact that so far there no evidence for an afterlife has been discovered. I was bought to your hub after you posted a link to it on an atheist Facebook page of which you were critical of the atheist posts. I disagree with your viewpoint that atheists are 'nincompoops!' because they claim to know something the rest of us do not. I wanted to point out that I feel you have a misunderstanding of what atheism is. Atheists are interested in what is true, and know where the line is between superstitious speculation and reality. If any credible evidence for an afterlife is ever found it will have my full attention. Dave.

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 3 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

I respect your observations Dave, and I will reread my essay above, it's been a few years since I wrote it, and honestly haven't edited it since then. Already I plan to qualify the title with "Cynical Atheists" instead of the blanket statement of "Atheists" from our interaction. Expect an update at the least, or a total rewrite, much of the sentiment remains the same I suspect, but Im sure I have more respect for atheists since writing it. It was intended as a learning experience for me to some degree.

I too of course, do not have an infinite knowledge of the universe. Science is just as flawed as religion in many ways though, and atheists are oftentimes zealots in their own way for it, upholding morays and taboos sometimes to secure their high paying positions, sometimes just to buttress science in and of it self. Sometimes science fails, just ask the inhabitants of Hiroshima. Or look back to early surgery, where washing hands was considered superstitious. Science like religion is fallible.

I very much appreciate your thoughtful reply. I want to look twice at your reply up above too, so I will probably respond to this again soon, so much on my plate right now, but …

In the meantime, feel free to add anything, and here’s two things to think about:

1. In it’s quest to debase religion, atheism sometimes creates it’s own incendiary philosophy, just as hate-filled or worse than the religious individuals and organizations it was supposed to be criticizing. My philosophy in life is, never fight an enemy or adversary to the point where you take on your enemies habits, because then your adversary wins. After all, if you now share the same qualities as your enemy, what are you fighting for? You have become one in the same.

2. What is more evident than your own consciousness? Words are great, I love them, but just because words or other identifiers can’t muster enough weight and tangibility to make you recognize the living energy of your own consciousness isn’t languages fault, it’s your own. It’s taboo to mix religion and science and for good reason, both are manipulated fallaciously, albeit with good intentions oftentimes, and science at it’s root, is meant to see empirically. Still instinct is, your heart is, existence is, and it’s ok to be nonplussed, something’s are meant to be experienced, not codified. Understand this too, I’m not judging your atheism, I’m judging your heart, your center, and that which you condemn. I’m not evangelizing you to anything, ironically though, I find that you, and many jaded atheists’, are on a mission to bring people to their godless state. You might be surprised to know that I am fond of many atheists, and that there are many atheists who will be surprised to find themselves in a heavenly state after death. Keep looking for proof or not looking, inquire, question it, but don’t fan the flames of hate, we’ve got enough of that already.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 3 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

One last thing, sorry to beat a dead horse here, but you said it yourself, "Not unless there has been some new scientific breakthrough I have not heard about which states consciousness cannot be destroyed".

You've contradicted yourself. You've recognized consciousness as a thing, we could argue forever about what type of thing it is, is it a gas? Is it electric? Regardless of that ad nausea argument, you admit, consciousness is something. By my standard it is so much more. But at least you recognize it exists, which is a start. I’m just using the rules of science as I’ve been taught.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article