What’s so bad about being an evangelical atheist?


So, a day or two ago on Facebook I ran into the meme on the right. If a Christian had shared it I might have taken them to task right then and there, but instead it was a fellow atheist who was sharing the meme so they and others could laugh at it. Now I don’t have any particular problem with people laughing at a silly argument, but unfortunately I found the most common argument against this meme being employed by many of the atheists in this thread to be terrible. I don’t agree with the meme either and I’m going to discuss why shortly, but first I want to deal with the terrible argument in question.

Basically the argument they were making was that it was impossible for atheists to evangelize because atheism is only a position on a single question, which seems to be a rather popular argument for atheists to make in a variety of situations. Now, there are a few narrow discussions in which I think it’s reasonable to point out that atheism is technically only a position on the question of god’s existence, but this is not one of those discussions. First off, even if we were just talking about that one question it would be entirely possible for an atheist to work very hard and convincing other people of their position on that question, secondly most atheists hold a host of other beliefs and ideas which, while not specifically atheism, often have followed from the persons atheism, humanistic moral values for instance. The fact is, if you only define being evangelical as trying to convince other people that your view on some subject is the correct one, then there is no reason an atheist could not be evangelical about their views about god, religion, politics or anything else they care deeply about…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in my opinion

This is where I think the meme gets things really wrong. Of course, it’s possible that there might be atheists out there who think that it’s always wrong to try to convince other people of your views (though I tend to see this attitude more often among post-modern theists than among atheists) and yes, if such an atheist went out trying to convert people that would hypocritical. However, I suspect that atheists who think this way are not the ones who write blogs and speak at conventions, or on podcasts, about their ideas. Those atheists, the ones like me, don’t think trying to convince people to change their minds about controversial subjects is either futile or unethical, but it actually quite important.

Further, the problem we have with evangelical Christians is not that they try to convince us their beliefs are true. That is one of the few traits of evangelicals that, at least, I respect. First, in so far as the actual debate goes, I think they are wrong about many of the conclusions they accept, but more importantly, in the context of this discussion, I often disagree with the WAY in which they try to argue for those beliefs. In short, rather than trying to use reason and evidence to convince people they often employ underhanded tactics and emotional manipulation. They force conversations on people who don’t want them, and treat them like projects instead of people. They often act more like a snake oil salesman than person who interested in a reasonable discussion with an equal, It’s in this that I have a big problem with their behavior. So as far as atheism goes, I have no problem with being “evangelical” so long as you do it in an ethical manner.

You can read my previous post about why I’m reluctant to be friends with evangelicals to hear more of my thoughts on the behavior of evangelicals.

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