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Why Are Atheists So Arrogant? Why The Question Is Stupid (On Three Levels)

Updated on April 16, 2014

Once I tried to give Christians some room on the question of why atheists were arrogant. But after being asked the question countless times and having the opportunity to answer it from several angles, it became obvious to me that question of why atheists are arrogant comes from a position of such stupefying blindness and hypocritical arrogance that the most appropriate response from an atheist is probably speechlessness.

As an atheist, how frequently do you get asked, "Why Are You So Arrogant?"

See results

However, in spite of that and in the interest of fairness I'll try to give the cliffnotes version of why Christians answer the question.

Christians usually claim they follow God, which involves, in their minds, humbling themselves before Him. Kinda like people humble themselves before a law, or humble themselves before a King or Queen. According to these Christians, however, atheists reject God’s authority in their attempts to make themselves the authority over themselves. So, by rejecting God’s authority, they are being more prideful than the Christian. For Christians, this is airtight logic -- and, according to many Christians, deep inside most people know this is airtight logic, so that merely stating it will convince nonbelievers or, at least, make them feel uncomfortable about their supposedly baseless pride. Often (though not always), the Christian may feel a bit of resentment towards the atheist, as well -- as the Christian is afraid of God and, it seems, the atheist is not -- making it so that atheists seems to think themselves better than Christians, as atheists, unlike Christians, make God more of a secondary factor.

For an atheist, however, this is wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. But let's do so, anyway.

"Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence." -- Christopher Hitchens

Level 1: "Arrogance" Isn't Even The Point

What the heck is wrong about being arrogant? Why is that a sin? The conversation should concentrate on whether the assessment I have of myself is accurate. So even if I WERE being overly arrogant, it seems up to you to tell me that I’m assessing myself wrongly – that somehow, I didn’t have the skills or abilities or value that I thought I had. But just saying I’m “arrogant” doesn’t do jack. So, let's look at the situation I'm arguing I'm in, in order to assess the appropriateness of my position: I think there’s not a God. So it's really I and others doing the things that you assign to something I don’t think exists. From my perspective, there is nothing wrong with me thinking I can fulfill those functions (say, help build and craft a moral system, or figure out how cause and effect works in the universe), because the human race has been doing it since, well, forever. You don’t change that perspective by simply saying I’m arrogant. You need to first prove that I’m unduly arrogant – giving myself an improper evaluation of the way I work in the world.

Jeff Dee Breaks It Down

Level 2: If Your God Exists, You're More Arrogant, Anyway

But, if we’re going to open things up to the charge of being arrogant – you’re far more arrogant than I, all things being equal, if you’re a Christian. I mean, take a step back and think about it. Who do you think I am, as long as I'm an atheist? If you're like most, you'll say I'm unsaved. And who are you? Saved. By whom? By, if you’re like most Christians, no other than the Almighty, Great, and Powerful God. Now, there’s a lot of theology wrapped up in that, I understand, but let’s just cut to the chase and say that, someway or other, God saves Christians and doesn’t save atheists, in most versions of your religion. So when I die, you think I’m going to a place of eternal hellfire, and you’re going to a place of eternal bliss. Whether you think you were ever a sinner, too, doesn’t really matter – the arrogance you have in your assertion of where we are going to end up when we die is plenty to say that your arrogance exceeds mind.

Richard Dawkins on Level 3

Level 3: Even Your Claim To Knowledge Is Usually More Arrogant Than The Atheist's

In addition, you have a lot of arrogance in your own belief -- enough so that you don't really think, in many cases, that you need a lot of evidence for it outside of a bit of apologetics, your personal experience, and, most importantly, "faith." The atheist reaction to this arrogance in the face of your question, "Why are you so arrogant?" is the hardest thing to get through to most Christians, which is largely why atheists get so frustrated and infuriated on a fairly regular basis when reacting to that inquiry. So, to save us some frustration, Christian, please try to take a step back and really understand here.

You believe things in the Bible – like a God-man being born of a virgin who died on a cross and rose after three days of being stone cold dead in a way that somehow saved us from the sin of naked people eating a fruit in a garden – that are absolutely stupendous. Many of us atheists actually were Christians who took the Bible far more seriously than you may have (it’s offensive, but it tends to be true), studied it, and found that there was not a shred of evidence to support it. Now, what’s more humble – to study something and come to a conclusion based on facts, or to say, “I don’t need to study it; I KNOW it happened, and everyone who disagrees with me is going to spend eternity in hell while I go to eternal bliss”? Try to answer that question from an outsider's perspective, and you may see how arrogant the latter option sounds.

Let Me Sum This Up For You

So it comes down to being wrong on three levels. First, arrogance isn’t really a charge that should stick – the charge that’s important in the first place is whether or not your claims are factually correct, and whether you have an accurate assessment of your standing in reference to the context you claim competence in. Second, even if we WERE to open up the charge of arrogance as one that should stick, it’s a lot more arrogant for you to think that an atheist is going to spend eternity in hell while you spend an eternity in bliss than to hold almost any atheistic stance. And, third, you’re showing an irrational arrogance, from the atheist’s perspective, in having a belief that doesn’t tend to be based on careful study and rational consideration of the claims of Christianity, and yet you proudly proclaim you are being humble over the arguably much more conscientious atheist who has the humility to realize he or she could be wrong and actually did research on the facts behind the phenomenon of Christianity in order to come to an accurate opinion.

In short – Christians should stop using the argument that atheists are arrogant. It is not really a valid argument in the first place, and even if it was, the claim hurts your claim more than it helps it.

Hopefully that’s clear.

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    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 3 years ago from Australia

      My argument is that many but not all modern online atheists can be hypocritical. eg. claim to have "empathy" and yet practice a form of TOTAL religious intolerance to all religions on the face of the earth.

    • Jonathan Bingham profile image

      Jonathan Bingham 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Until reading your article, I've never perceived a correlation between arrogance & atheism or arrogance & Christianity. However, it got me thinking on a possible reason a Christian would think an atheist is arrogant. A real Christian's truth can only come from the Bible. A Christian cannot change that. However, an atheist's truth is completely his own which kind of makes him his own god. Perhaps that's the arrogance line that your getting from other Christians. Just my two cents there, I've never really thought about it being a pride issue until now so thanks for the inetesting article

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 3 years ago from Australia

      I wasn't really talking of atheist arrogance but atheist hypocrisy.

    • profile image

      glitch 3 years ago

      Hypocrisy? Is that what you call when somebody stops you from oppressing others because of your imaginary friend?

    • profile image

      Eric 3 years ago

      I think what Oztinato means by hypocrisy, is that there is just as much a lack of evidence for no god, as there is for a god (or gods). I'm agnostic, but in my humble opinion, the arrogance can be viewed as equal between theists and atheists. The theist says "I KNOW there is a god, you're wrong" and the atheist says "I KNOW there is no god, you're wrong", but neither of them have any hard evidence for such bold claims. Quite arrogant. However, normally the arguments are between specific theists and atheists, and not deists and atheists. So in this case the matter is narrower, and probably for the same reason the author of this article chose to focus on Christianity, and not theism in general. It's easy to use reason to pick apart specific ancient mythologies, but I think that is where many atheists get their only satisfaction. The argument with a deist ends quite abruptly, and it ends at agnosticism; no one really knows the answer. That is the arrogance: to say you know the answer to the unknowable, and to tell your opponent that they are wrong. Just be a humble agnostic and stop all the bitching.

    • profile image

      Colin Neville 3 years ago

      Yes, I'm with Eric on this. I simply don't know. It's about having belief and faith in an external deity, which is the sticking point for me. I suspect though, if I was on the deck of 'The Titanic', I would be less circumspect.

    • thost profile image

      thost 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Some people believe in God. And some people believe in the absence of God. You see, all belief is based on God.

    • profile image

      Colin Neville 3 years ago

      And some don't know if there is a God, in terms of an external deity. Is that a belief? I don't deny that the concept of God is an important issue, but it can't be reduced to either you do, or don't believe.

    • HAYESREB profile image

      HAYESREB 3 years ago from Raleigh Area, NC

      I think the real issue here is the amount of respect we give other human beings regardless of their religious beliefs. I was raised in a home where we didn't really talk about religion. I left that home an atheist and studied religion in college. I spent so much time trying to explain to Christians why they were just stupid. Today I am a Christian. Things change. You get some clarity in one direction or another. The big thing is that I look back on my personal atheistic days and realize I did not show respect to my fellow human beings because they were Christian. As a Christian today I try to keep that in perspective and remain respectful. God gave us free will...who in the world am I to attempt to take that from anyone? The Bible says to love each other...not attack each other. Arrogance is everywhere and it doesn't matter whether you believe in God or not. When we believe we are right we get arrogant.

    • profile image

      Bandit 3 years ago

      Wow! what an emotion stirring topic!

      I am with HayesReb on this one. I think within every group there are those who are arrogant and those who are not. Many times the arrogant outspoken ones get the microphone or headlines. That's because papers, TV, forums all thrive on conflict. The more we stir up the hornets nest, the more people will watch to see who wins the fight.

      In the end, we all have to live together in some form of community. If you are an atheist, you probably still have an innate sense of right and wrong and the desire to good and to help your neighbor. If you are a christian, you better not only have those things but exhibit them. Nothing turns people in society away from Christians like people who say they believe in something but their actions don't show it. As a Christian, we are called to "Love your neighbor as yourself" in Deuteronomy 6. So to you Christians, JUST DO IT!. And to you atheists, thank you for sharing your perspective with us and I hope we can all as a society do a better job.

    • profile image

      yo 2 years ago

      kyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 16 months ago from Irvine

      I have to chime in with Jonathan Bingham's statement (above). Before reading your Hub, I never made a connection between arrogance and believing or not believing in God. Your Hub enabled me to see that the disagreement between believers and non-believers can be viewed as a matter of arrogance and thus leading to some hard feelings -- both ways. When discussing God with my Evangelical friends, I avoid any confrontation to the extent possible. I don't push my viewpoint, and, thankfully, my religious friends don't push me into believing what they believe. They would like to convert me (as is part of their discipline) but they are wise enough not to push. So, I've never had an argument about arrogance, but I can see how either side might come to this conclusion if the push is extreme and ill-considered. Sometimes one side or the other can go overboard in their arguments. When someone comes to my door and wants to convert me to the Evangelical way of thinking or Mormonism, I often resort to telling them that I'm a happy Buddhist. This is an outright lie because I'm really nothing. I pick up wisdom from Christianity as well as Buddhism but I don't practice anything. I'm more of a philosophical kind of guy and do not subscribe to any collective. I feel more comfortable about being an independent -- someone who can pick and choose wisdom from wherever without committing myself to a specific dogma.

      Just by accident I've learned that various people do indeed regard me as arrogant -- even a rich arrogant. For me this was surprising. I eventually came to understand that a quiet person can be the perfect candidate for all sorts of archetypes. In my quietness, I had hoped to project a kind of non-affiliation, a kind of neutrality, just a pose to project that I was listening but non-differential -- not just regarding religion but politics and other hot-button subjects.

      This quietness was often discerned as arrogance. When you say nothing, people are afforded the opportunity of labeling you however they like. People expect confrontation. If you deny them confrontation, they are left to build their own assessment. It's remarkable how much stuff an individual can thrust upon a mere cipher. For many it's inconceivable that a person can simply be so shut off from hot-button discourse. A person's silence is often construed as a form of arrogance -- someone who feels too elevated to stoop to a disagreement.

      When listening in to various discussions (hot-button discourse as I put it) and remaining silent, I never thought of myself as depicting someone too arrogant to engage in the discussion. Yet, this is exactly how others perceived me.

      Would I change my behavior knowing this? Probably not. We cannot control how others perceive us -- even if it is erroneous. We cannot control how others think and perceive the world around them. I learned how to zip up my lips from reading a lot about Buddhism but the influence actually began by just observing Spock (of Star Trek fame) and his mastery at allowing human beings to exhibit their emotions, without becoming emotional in the process.

      Remaining silent reaps certain rewards and certain forfeitures. By remaining silent, you hear more. The downside is that others will take your silence as a kind of arrogance and dismiss you in their own way.

      But as I said at the onset of this over-long comment, I never quite connected arrogance with a merely passive approach toward life. Your Hub filled that gap, so thank you.

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