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Why do People Become Atheists?

I’ve posited that atheists do not want ultimate accountability to God, and that is part of their motivation for denying God’s existence.  Atheists try hard to resist that, but a few have been forthright about it.  Philosopher Thomas Nagel, for example, wrote:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Now, the Atheist Camel comes clean as well.  When contemplating what the reaction would be to bulletproof evidence that there is a god, he said:

I’ll proffer that it depends on the god’s persona. If it is a hands (or trunk, or tentacles) off god, who created us and lets us live out our lives as independent beings unfettered by its irrational  threats and demands; perhaps a fun loving kind of being that finds our behavior amusing or disgusting, but nevertheless nonjudgmental–  perhaps asking only for an occasional acknowledgement and thank you now and then I’d have no problem with it. Acknowledge and move on. (source, emphasis added)

So he’s fine as long as there is minimal intrusion in his life.  Now, what if this deity was the God of the Bible and did demand certain things?

Where scientists never before bothered to contemplate the supernatural, many of them, and our freethinking brethren, would now kowtow to this God’s demands.  But many more would turn their attention toward one objective…find a way to destroy it.  An underground movement, an army of partisans, dedicated to freedom of thought, rationality, fairness and conscience battling not only for the freedom to live life free from omnipotent oppression and irrationality, but for the freedom and right to die and fade into oblivion without pain and fear.

If there were a proven God of the Bible in all its horrendous glory man would be compelled to stop killing each other. The thinking among us would turn our undivided attention to find a way to kill this God monster … once and for all. (source, emphasis added)

So the truth comes out.  As long as the Atheist Camel gets to live as he chooses, with no interference from a deity, he’s fine.  But the moment there is an expectation of behavior and a requisite final judgement, he thinks that humans should join together and kill that God.

What can I say?  This confirms my original theory about atheists wanting to avoid final judgment classic-D&D-style — rolling a 20-sider and saying “I disbelieve.”  I just wish more atheists were this honest.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on August 26, 2012, in Apologetics, God, Heresy, Morality and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. You are incorrectly extrapolating from two individuals to the entire population.

  2. One guy with one particular property said stupid stuff, hence all people with the same property is also stupid? You’re making a rather large and ignorant fallacy.

  3. And then Jesus came upon his disciples and said, “Brethren, love me, admire me, adore me. But please, for the love of Baal, stop with the dying for sins bullshit. It’s fucking outrageous and makes us all look like a bunch of goddamn Cro-Magnon lunatics!!”–Jesus Christ, the Lost Gospel

  4. Interestingly that’s also how we stop believing in the tooth fairy.

  5. Héhé…I see folks on here already said exactly what I was thinking…you criticize nonbelievers all the time for generalizing (I’m usually less guilty of that) and you’re generalizing from a couple people to all of us…you called that a “confirmation”…it’s like if I say “all Christians are violent” and point to a couple Christians committing violent acts and think my belief is thus confirmed…

  6. Oy.

    I’m no longer an atheist, though I do still agree with the logical positions that caused me to live as one for years and understand people who live according to those positions. Not one of them was ever articulated as a desire to avoid divine accountability.

    This is a huge fallacy, embraced by (primarily) Christians to avoid acknowledging what atheism is; an absence of belief. A true atheist cannot seek to hide from divine accountability because that would imply a belief in the divine. What you’re describing, Cory, is rebellion. An atheist quite rightly rejects that descriptor because it is impossible to rebel against that which you don’t believe in. An atheist is simply someone who has heard the claims of a (or many) religion(s) and does not find them credible. Full stop.

    If theists and atheists are ever going to be able to coexist on this little rock, and we really have to stop mischaracterizing each other’s worldviews.

  7. I think I got a tad overzealous here.

    Maybe it would have been better stated that this is another example of an atheist who admits he doesn’t want to be judged by God, or have to live by God’s standards. And that likely informs his unbelief.

    While I think that underpins many atheists’ rejection of God, even if they aren’t publicly (or privately) admitting so, these snips are NOT evidence that EVERY ATHEIST rejects God on the basis of fearing divine judgment.

    That’s as close to a retraction as you’re going to get, guys.

    And I will say, in closing, that the Atheist Camel is a whackjob, and not representative of the thoughtful commenters I typically get here. For every Paul Copan there are 100 Fred Phelpses in both camps, I guess.

  8. Very interesting explanation – fits most every atheist I’ve ever met! BUT, the “nominal, non-intrusive” God concept? Well, there are a whole lot of “church-goers” who think they’re okay that believe much the same. They attend some of the fringe (feel good) churches OR even some of those loose Protestant denominations, too.

  9. The other point you’re missing, Cory, is that the rant by the Atheist Camel was not about wanting to live any way he wants. The point was to use a literary device to point out how atheists cannot understand how Christians are willing to worship a god that is described as jealous, vengeful, murderous, genocidal, infanticidal, misogynistic, and ignorant of some very basic scientific truths in the book written about him. The Camel asked atheists to IMAGINE that god did exist. He asked us to imagine the existence of this horrible being BECAUSE we don’t believe he does. Consequently, we don’t worry about what God is thinking or how he might judge us. That is YOUR obsession, not ours. I don’t IMAGINE that you worry about being naughty or nice for fear that Santa Claus will know, and you will miss out on some Christmas presents. Did you stop believing in Santa Claus because you wanted to live any way you wanted? See how that works? Your mistake wasn’t generalizing. Your mistake is projecting your fears and obsessions onto people you don’t understand at all. If you really want to understand atheists, try using your imagination too. Imagine truly letting go of your religious beliefs. Until you do that with an open mind, you will continue to prove how little you understand about atheists. And by the way, the Atheist Camel earned a Bronze Star serving in Vietnam. He has had a long and happy marriage, raised two successful children, a successful business career, loves and advocates for animals and children, and he votes too. Atheists are not a monolithic group at all, but the ones I know personally are honest, moral, sucessful, charitable, upstanding citizens. So if that is the definition of living the way we want, maybe more people should try it.

  10. One more thing. Even if all atheists were the worst people in the world, known as murderers and common criminals (which they are not, check imprisonment rates, see Bill Gates), and all Christians were paragons of virtue, honesty, and charity (which they are not, check imprisonment rates, see Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Peter Popoff), that would still not be evidence that there is a god.

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