Atheism and Dogmatism: Embrace a Higher Standard

| by Luke Muehlhauser

I suspect a greater portion of atheists are committed to reason and evidence than are religious believers. Still, I am reminded every day that we atheists are not particularly more rational than believers.

Denying the gods does not allow one to escape rampant human bias. Theism is merely one symptom of our mostly non-rational and irrational primate brains – there are many other symptoms that atheists rarely escape. We, too, are often dogmatic. We, too, abandon reason and evidence to support opinions that just “feel right” to us.

I was reminded of this a few hundred times during the week when I asked atheists to explain what was wrong with my Sexy Scientists post. A few people gestured toward a kind of argument, but it was clear they were more interested to condemn me than they were to work through the logic of the ethical issues at play.

Most of my critics made little attempt to understand what I had said. Instead, they blatantly misrepresented my stated positions so that they could smear me.

Others admitted freely they didn’t care about the arguments involved, they just knew that they knew that they knew I was wrong. Others made non-substantive, hand-waving comments about how I was acting out of male privilege and then, ironically, accused me of hand-waving (though I had responded directly and in detail to arguments made by my critics and at least one prominent feminist philosopher).

Read the comments on this subject at Pharyngula for a lesson in dogmatic atheism. They demonstrate a method for showing that atheists are dogmatic: Attack an atheistic dogma – especially about a complicated subject like morality and feminism – and count the number of respondents who show a serious interest in arguments and evidence over emotion and dogma-defending.

I don’t think atheists need to rise to a higher standard to make religion fade away. That will happen anyway, as knowledge and morality leave religion behind. I just wish atheists would embrace a higher standard for themselves.