Very Top Five... things Atheists and Christians have in common

Monday, 16 November 2009
“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“God who?”

First, let’s just sort something out: I’m not a Christian or an Atheist. Nor am I an Agnostic, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or adherent to any other belief. Good. Right. So don’t be tiresome and claim I’m biased one way or another.

So, as I am neither Christian nor Atheist, I have decided to alienate y’all, for a laugh. I will do this by claiming to be making an attempt to bring you together under the glitzy umbrella of intended unification, when actually I’m just being bloody minded. For this audacity, you might suggest that my pharisaism will make me a pariah, or rather you might once you’ve looked up a word or two.

Atheism and Christianity are very similar in practise, even if they claim to be far apart: For example, consider two football teams who share a powerful and long running enmity. I might sit on the sidelines and say that the similarities are plain to see. And they say “I see no similarities? What similarities can there possibly be?!” To which I respond; “Clearly you’re both playing football.”

You know that glint that true believers have in their eyes? Real, fervent atheists have that too.

So that's where I'm coming from and before you get all worked up, do remember that of course I’m not suggesting that all of these attributes are true of all Christians or all Atheists (just most of them) so, you know, just chill and take it on the chin like Jesus would have done.

Oh my, some of you are not going to like this at all, but it's not too late to read some lovely factettes about fungi or big animals instead.

5. Holier than thou attitude (aka smugness):

Atheists and Christians both feel that they have made the right choice. This burning passion separates the pure metal of truth from the dross of lies in the great foundry of the soul (or perhaps an analogous, purely psychological alternative to the soul). It also allows you to slag off the alternative views which lie around your adamantine island. Steel yourself for my analysis of what ‘being right’ means to each group:

Atheists derive their smugness from knowing that organised religion is an outdated, old-fashioned, chimerical contrivance, one which the pristine engine of secular science has long left it in its tracks. Surely anyone who can’t understand this is a fool?

Christians derive their smugness rather more simply: God is all powerful. I love him and he loves me. Surely anyone who can’t understand this is a fool?

Christians are also smug because they live moral lives, according to the word of God, with the greater reward promised at the end of it.

Atheists are smug because they say that being moral because God ‘told you to be’ is poor logic indeed, and consequently an Atheist would claim that his morality and ethics are of a higher calibre, enforced as they are by conscience rather than Christ.

How can you be so sure, say Christians, that living to your own standards of morality are moral at all, and not just a personal and flawed perception? That is arrogance indeed.

And both groups get a nice warm glowy smurfly feeling from being around people who share their views so they can concur on how right they all must be. At the end of the day, both sides say, “our humility is better than yours.”

4. Pretending to understand each other’s point of view by reading bits from the other group’s books and quoting the bits they like the sound of for the purposes of point-scoring:

There’s a word for people who read through a book looking for the bits that make most titillating reading and then comment exclusively on those bits out of context; journalists. And we all hate journalists, so why should you be allowed to do it?

Atheists will skim scoffingly through the bible and pick out bits like those in Leviticus and Romans about how naughty homosexuality is, or the bit that says humans have ‘dominion’ over animals. Then they’ll go “Aha! The rickety house-of-cards you call a religion has been toppled by my daring exposé of your pathetically barbaric views.”

And perhaps the Christian response will be “you clearly don’t understand the Bible. By the way, we just came out of nowhere, did we? Life just magically appeared, did it? Go on then, make some ‘life’ with your science.”

And the Atheists would say “you clearly don’t understand biology.”

“You can’t explain Love with science,” retorts the Christain, feeling that he is onto something of winning streak.

And then the atheist wades back in with “Idiot, yes you can. The brain is an immensely complicated object, with a complexity beyond current understanding, but…” and the Christian retorts, “Nope, you admitted it! Science doesn’t understand it; it’s God’s work.” And the Atheist is all; “You can’t just say ‘oh, because we don’t know how it works right now it must be God wot done it’.”

And the Christians go, “Yes you can. I just did.”

And so it goes on, until whenever the final whistle is blown. But until then, point scoring is to be encouraged.

3. Caring about how we got here (creation myths):

Why do people care about why we got here? So they can have a good marvel at the beauty of nature? Fair enough. But then why is the next step in this plan to immediately assume that either “We might not understand it, but God did it” or “We might not understand it, but Physics did it”? You don’t expect bacteria to be able to understand the complexity of how your stomach got to be there, so why should we feel equipped to appreciate our place in the Universe (aka stomach of God)?

Anyway, this whole thing is a brilliant excuse for a big fight between the “God-did-its” and the “No-He-didn’ts,” and after everyone has got bored of the creation of the Universe angle (which is a bit dry) there is still evolution to discuss (Which is far moister).

Want to annoy an Atheist? Then say, “evolution is only a theory, even biologists admit it,” because although they consider this a very trite and common misconception of the definition of a scientific theory, it never fails to annoy the hell out of them.

Want to annoy a Christian? Hide their bible.

However, as for creation and intelligent design “scientists”: Seriously? Now come on, your position is indefensible. You can’t just take the complicated jigsaw of biology and throw half of it away, take the scissors to the rest so it fits, re-paint over some pieces and say “Ta-dah! It’s a picture of god, just as we always knew it would be.”

2. Clinging on to one concept like it’s the end of the world:

These two concepts are faith and the scientific method. Neither is infallible; this is something which both sides often forget about their own views but are quick to mention it when they spot a flaw with the other’s.

Both sides are also keen to point out that actually yes, their concept is infallible; Faith because although discussion and disagreement on interpretation is perfectly acceptable within the teachings of a religion, this is not fallibility as you are merely continuing to weave the framework of continual assessment of faith led by the teaching of the Bible allowing you to move closer to truth; and the scientific method because although individuals make mistakes, sticking to the concept of a method of continual assessment of evidence will always move towards greater knowledge of truth. D’you see what I mean?

Faith’s been around for longer, and has seen more people from cradle to grave than any new-fangled atheistic, humanistic construction, the Christians might argue. The scientific method is based on logic, truth and a curiosity to discover more about the world, the Atheists might respond, and consequently is at least as old as faith. They then might have a discussion about the comparative power of faith versus science, or perhaps just take turns at bludgeoning each other with their metaphorical clubs.

1. Worship of those who explain the organisation’s tenets eloquently:

He is our leader of leaders, our teacher of teachers. His words help us live our daily lives, and we take solace in His words. We use those words against the unbelievers. He is our saviour, our messiah, our Lord and our hero, and His name is Richard Dawkins/Jesus Christ.


Overall though, I like Christians because hardly any of them use opposition to atheism to define their own belief system’s existence, and they often show a seraphic ignorance towards Atheists’ snide sniping with a level of quiet patience beyond that of their atheistic antagonists.

Conversely, I like atheists because I don’t think that we need a God for existence to exist, and I agree that many Christians only label themselves as such because that’s how they were brought up, and they haven’t thought about it properly for themselves.

I expect that Christians will pity my lack of belief, but forgive me (hate the sin, love the sinner). Atheists will pity my indecision and seeming inability to use my self-professed knowledge of the scientific method to a logical conclusion; after all, what do you feel for someone who cannot or will not allow themselves to be convinced of the truth; the absolute truth, knowledge of which improves your understanding of life every day? I imagine you would feel pity.


My name is Christopher, which means bearer of Christ, which you might think is hypocritical. But no, it’s true, I do bear Christ. I can put up with him as well as anyone.

So let’s end with a lovely pair of quotes. And whoar, what a lovely pair they are:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

“The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn't seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as 'faith'.” Richard Dawkins.


Anonymous said...

Hey! Found your blog at 20sb!!!

LOL@ "want to annoy a Christian...hide their Bible"

That's funny to me because I carry my Bible everywhere I go and this morning I forgot to put it back in my purse before i left home and was aggravated when I realized it.

I am a Christian, but I was able to take your post for the humor you intended it to be...some others may not be as light-hearted about it...

Very Top Five said...

Thanks for the comment, induetime09.

I'm glad that you were able to take the post in the way it was intended. Thanks for the warning; this post is slightly more acerbic than usual, but I'm hopeful that no-one will get too incensed about it since both sides get equal treatment.

Amber said...

You're a clever one, aren't you?

I really like your blog, consider yourself followed.

Children of the 90s said...

I like the way you've covered this, and for the most part I agree. The further you get on either side of any spectrum, the more fervently those people seem to cling to the truth of what they're saying. I'm neither a Christian nor atheist, but I do think I fall ideologically somewhere in the middle of a spectrum of extremes like this.

The only way to firmly position yourself on the end of the spectrum is to believe that your position is absolute and airtight, and I just don't have that kind of assuredness. I mean, I can't even decide where to eat on my lunch break.

Also, nice use of the adverb "smurfly". I'm liking it.

Ewan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ewan said...

I deleted my post because it sounded smug. Great reading as always, can't wait till next week!

Very Top Five said...

Hi Ewan, thanks! I didn't think your post sounded smug: You were right, I have cheekily referenced this earlier post:

Children of the 90s, thanks for checking out my blog. I agree totally about the level of certainty needed to be at either extreme. If I could bring myself to do it, I would love to believe that a benign God is watching over me. That'd be sweet!

Thanks Amber!

Andrew Gonsalves said...

5. As an Atheist, my "smugness" comes not from my opposition to Christianity, but from the many logical processes from which I have derived my conclusion. I won't call them proofs, but I will call them knowledge. Just like a well-read and experienced professional can run circles around an amateur. Mind you, this is not atheist literature I read, but philosophy, sociology and neuropsychology texts. Studying humans and society as a whole gives a very good glimpse into the construct of religion (and god in general). I consider myself an outsider, and proud not to be a part of the scrum. I also acknowledge that KNOWING is a weakness, because it makes us vulnerable to random, rare and contradicting experiences.

4. I don't participate in this activity. I have never read the bible, the qu'ran or the torrah. Similarly, I don't know of any atheist treatise that I could recommend to a believer. Maybe I should write one, so I can make this point of yours a reality. I have read a book by Christopher Hitchens, but I don't consider many of its points among those that I use to justify my stance. He attacks religion because of its fallacy, meanwhile I just observe its lack of necessity. In any case, the atheist argument you've given is hilarious inept. If I ever heard a fellow atheist step off with that kind of blathering, I'd have to interrupt him and take over. Alas, there are members of every group that make the rest shake their heads.

3. I don't care how we got here. In fact, in my discussions with Christians who keep going back to the question of origin, I try to get them off that topic because they are simply filling holes in their knowledge with god. It doesn't matter to me how or why I am here. I am a nihilist in that regard - I don't think there is a reason beyond the random events that conspired to bring me into existence.

2. I am a hard atheist, but that doesn't mean I won't listen to something that proves me wrong. In fact, I am learning more every day, expanding and adjusting my understanding of the world. I read from different sources, being careful not to apply the confirmation bias too liberally to how I interpret the information I glean. The difference between an atheist and a believer is this: An atheist knows 1% and fills the 99% with nothing. A believer knows 1% and fills the 99% with god. Atheism is not a religion, it is a state where you simply don't believe.

1. I don't pay much attention to Dawkins, but I am considering reading his book on Evolution for its scientific properties. Of course, Christians believe in evolution, too. In any case, you're claiming that both sides fall victim to the argument from authority fallacy. You must be referring to the sheep, present everywhere in human society. Some people just can't think for themselves. What are you gonna do about it?

Brianne said...

As a 'doubter', I really enjoyed this post. :) Well done!

Anonymous said...

The age of the earth, in some ways, makes science unable to “jive” or agree with the facts (I do believe it is) in the Bible. The Bible is really too new for the earth...

read my article about A WORLD BEFORE THE GENESIS???

Anonymous said...

Related posts is entitled WHAT IS BEFORE GOD