Atheist battles religion in ‘Fighting God’

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David Silverman with retired "ATHEIST" New Jersey plate. Photo courtesy Dave Muscato/American Atheists

David Silverman with retired "ATHEIST" New Jersey plate. Photo courtesy Dave Muscato/American Atheists

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(RNS) In his new book, American Atheists' president David Silverman lays out why he is often such a jerk and why he wants other atheists to join him in jerkitude.

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  • Garson Abuita

    Silverman certainly can speak to whether he considers being Jewish incompatible with atheism, but as someone who does not consider himself Jewish, he is in no position to define who is a Jew. As has been said many times before, it’s a religion and an ethnicity. I’ll take the views of Einstein, Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, among many others, over his.

  • Neon Genesis

    David Silverman’s absurd claim that being respectful towards Islam and Muslims is the same as sharia law represents the worst of organized atheism and is the same kind of idiocy you hear from the GOP which is probably why Silverman has a long history of being cozy with the GOP.

  • G Key

    “Silverman… says atheists and their books now have to go to… a full-frontal assault on religion that attempts not just to explain atheism but to promote it as an alternative — the only alternative.”

    Sounds like Mr. Silverman thinks atheism is the one true religion.

    As an atheist who believes in respecting others’ personal boundaries, including their beliefs, I wholeheartedly disagree.

    I believe the Golden Rule implies that we should ALL (emphasis) respect others’ personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, rights, privacy, and equality, as we would have others respect our personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, rights, privacy, and equality.

    Accordingly, I embrace the guiding values of inequality-lessness, trespass-lessness, and cruelty-lessness — and what I see as merely the price of being human: to contribute positively to humanity.

    So my contribution du jour is this:

    What’s so moral about profaning other people’s spiritual beliefs?

    “Is it angst, or…

  • G Key

    …is it schadenfreude?”

  • Neon Genesis

    I suspect Mr. Silverman is more concerned about selling hot button issue books than he actually is concerned about atheism.

  • Louis P Wright

    It often sounds like atheists equate atheism with a growing knowledge of reality. A “maturing of the mind” or, perhaps, a more scientific or logical mindset.
    I often detect an attitude of superiority of atheists over believers. The intent is often to portray believers as simpletons, foolish, unscientific, illogical, fools or, as here, victims of religion.
    Of course, nothing is farther from the truth. The atheists goal is a simple one: to prove there is no God. The reason for doing so is, also, a simple one. If there is no God, there is no sin. If there is no sin and no Hell, then a person may do whatever they please without fear of punishment by a holy God.
    So, then, an atheist is become a “god” of his/her own making. He/she may decide what is right or wrong for themselves and live accordingly. Unfortunately, for a growing segment of our population, the truth is that there is a God. He is holy and righteous and judges all men (and women) according to His own…

  • vfilipch

    You should respect PEOPLE, yes. But to respect any religions or superstitions is ridiculous, and if you are respecting any of those – you are not an atheist.

  • vfilipch

    We, atheists, don’t have a goal to prove there’s no God, because we don’t know what God is. Once you, believers, provide to us a verifiable definition of God, then and only then we can try to prove that God doesn’t exist. For now we are just waiting for such verifiable definition.

  • Jack

    An atheist who feels as superior as Silverman does either has grown up in an intellectual cocoon where his beliefs were never challenged, or is afflicted with a Trump-like narcissism that willfully rejects all challenges to his biases and prejudices.

    Put Silverman in the Deep South in the 1950s, and he’d be spouting the same nonsense against black people.

    I’m picturing Silverman debating the late C.S. Lewis…..it would be like Daffy Duck debating Einstein.

  • Panikos

    To try and prove there is no god would be ludicrous. No sensible person would even try as it is meaningless to prove a lack of something undetectable. The atheist position is generally – and in my case – that there is no sensible reason to suppose there is a god.

    And are you really claiming that everyone who is not in your particular church is part of a conspiracy designed to let them do evil with impunity? After all if you accept that we don’t believe your god exists then there is already no barrier to disobeying him.

  • Panikos

    I won’t go into a Muslim’s house and shove a picture of Mohammed under his nose because I was brought up to be polite and respectful. But if we can’t draw a picture of Mohammed in our own house that is about fear and/or acceptance of Sharia law.

  • Panikos

    If we have knowledge of good/bad built into us why is it that when we see people in the bible/koran who were beloved of god performing evil acts this is excused because ‘those were different times’.

    Surely god hasn’t changed his mind?

    And whether you think god is jesus or allah he was right there and able to say “no!, murder, slavery and such is evil’

  • Panikos

    You can hardly expect the existence of the world or the words in a book to convince us that god is real. After all there are other books and other gods. If yours is true then they are convincing fakes. Equally as convincing as yours.

    How could a person know which if any were true. Isn’t it unreasonable if god wants us to guess or flip a coin?

  • Panikos

    Since the same word is used to indicate a religion and an ethnicity the problem is simply with the language used to express the opinion. So of course ethnicity doesn’t change, but the religion can and no reasonable person would deny that.

    Imagine that a neighbour said they were Christian, but that they didn’t believe god existed or any afterlife, they thought jesus never even lived and they totally disagreed with the bible. Would you accept them still as being a true Christian?

    Maybe you’d too polite to say anything but if someone asked you how many Christians there were in your town would you count him amongst your number?

  • T.C.

    One must believe in the thing they are then claiming to not believe in in order to even begin their discussion in the first place. This shows just how God inserts Himself even when one attempts to deny His proof in reality.

  • Panikos

    Profaning other people’s spiritual beliefs simply to upset them would be immoral.

    But what happens if their belief affects others? If someone believed in human sacrifice should we respect that and let them carry it out?

    I’d go further than most in that I think if someone believed human sacrifice – or something equally as unpleasant – to be a good thing then they should be allowed to think so. We shouldn’t police thoughts. But we’d stop them doing it wouldn’t we. We’d stop them teaching their children that it was ok.

    How about a less violent example. If people in our country believed ownership of property was wrong would we let them take what they wanted and ignore the law? Clearly we wouldn’t.

    So a blanket ‘any belief is acceptable’ doesn’t work. We say ‘well we have to draw a line somewhere’ and the discussion becomes where to draw that line.

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  • Nancy Morris

    Correction: This atheist is still waiting on a theist–any theist–to prove that their deity actually exists. Until then, religion–any religion–is nothing more than fiction. No atheist assumes that he or she is a “god”–that notion, too, is theist fiction. Bring proof to the table that your deity exists, and we’ll talk. I’ll wait.

  • Garson Abuita

    Panikos, you have proven my point exactly. As a non-Christian it would be far from becoming of me to define what a “true Christian” is. If someone sincerely identifies herself as a Christian, I consider her a Christian for counting purposes. The same goes for Bernie Sanders and the rest of the people I mentioned, as it pertains to Judaism. It is a question of identity.

  • Garson Abuita

    Are you really saying that respecting other religions or beliefs is incompatible with atheism? I thought atheists’ only core belief is a lack of belief in a deity. I can understand why many atheists do not respect religions, but start piling on doctrinaire exclusionary positions like this and you creep toward the r-word.

  • G Key

    No, vfilipch, the term you’re seeking is “antitheist”.

    As one who honestly and firmly believes in no god, I recognize that beliefs are, by definition, personal — and I see no need for (or virtue in) trespassing on others’ personal property by insulting their beliefs, to which they have as much right as I have to mine.

    By claiming that I am “not an atheist”, you are trespassing on my property and insulting my beliefs. I’m sure you didn’t mean to.

    I strongly value coexistence — but, in the event that I’m wrong, and that Armageddon actually occurs in my lifetime, I will be found defending any Respecters against all Trespassers.

    Beliefs are not the issue. How people treat each other is. Peace.

  • Ben in oakland

    “I often detect an attitude of superiority of atheists over believers. The intent is often to portray believers as simpletons, foolish, unscientific, illogical, fools or, as here, victims of religion.”

    Projection is what so many religionists do– projecting their own wholly imaginary superiority onto their “enemies. You’ve just said that atheists want to remove all moral values from the world. We’re immoral. You’re not. Right.

    “The atheists goal is a simple one: to prove there is no God.” Show some real, verifiable evidence. I’d give world’s to see it. Perhaps you can pray for the idea to appear. Prayer always works.

    “If there is no God, there is no sin.” No sin, absolutely. But noright and wrong? aBsolutely not.

    “If there is no sin and no Hell, then a person may do whatever they please without fear of punishment by a holy God.” If the only thing keeping you from rape and murder is your belief in God…

  • Jon

    Yes. All people deserve respect, but ideas, like corporations, are not people. Ideas must earn respect. Saying that all ideas deserve respect stifles discussion and harms real people. Religions are ideas, and granting religions immunity from discussion is bringing in the thought police.
    Respecting all people means helping to shield real people from harm, and that means that harmful ideas can’t be mollycoddled just because they are religions. Opening ideas to rational discussion – whether that idea is a guess, a religion, a superstition, or a racist idea – is not just part of being an Atheist, it’s part of being a rational person.

  • Jack

    Nancy, if God appeared, you’d come up with a natural explanation, because nature digests miracles following impact. Thus, anyone can look back retrospectively and locate them within the cause/effect chain running through nature.

    And just as theists face the problem of evil, atheists face the problem of how everything got here.

    And finally, besides the question of how matter & life began, atheists have a mountain of trouble regarding the Bible and Biblical prophecy. When Frederick the Great, an atheist monarch of Prussia, asked a clergy man to prove God’s existence, he replied, “the Jews, your majesty.” He meant the whole story of Jewish origins, history, and longevity. Were he alive today, he’d have a further problem: no people in history, after being exiled from their land, came back 20 centuries later to form their own state. Moreover, both exile and return were prophesized 24 centuries ago in the Bible.

  • Jack

    Well, Panikos, that sounds like the lazy person’s way out. There are so many religions and who has the time to investigate any of them?

    Well, someone who wants to know the answers to ultimate questions, that’s who. Someone who has already decided on the matter without any investigating is someone who really doesn’t want to know.

  • Jack

    Ben, maybe people on each side have an attitude of superiority toward the other.

  • G Key

    That’s why I emphasize “respecting others’ personal boundaries”, Panikos. Human sacrifice is the ultimate trespass. (Obviously, theft is also trespass.)

    The only conflict I see (and it’s a rather inhuman human conflict) is that some people, such as myself, believe that faith is subject to personal boundaries, whereas other people believe that personal boundaries are subject to (their) faith… though I’ve never heard of anyone in this second group believing that their own personal boundaries are likewise subject to anyone else’s faith.

    Since I care more about how people treat each other than about anything else, I believe that this particular conflict is — literally — the worst problem on Earth.

  • G Key

    Is it our privilege to decide the marital, medical, and legal relationships of strangers?  Is faith more important than mercy?  Must women and minorities submit to men and majorities?  Is it okay to work on the Sabbath, and when does that day begin and end?  Must we stone to death our rebellious children?  Are we morally obligated to feed, clothe, shelter, teach, employ, care for, and protect the hungry, naked, homeless, uneducated, jobless, disabled, and vulnerable?  May we drink alcohol or eat shellfish?  Is it appropriate for us to confidently describe the character, motives, and worth of people we don’t know, and to treat them accordingly?  Which commands from which scripture must we follow, and which may we ignore?  Are foreigners ours to attack and enslave, and their property ours to take?  When we offend others’ spiritual/existential values, is that as profane as when they offend ours?

  • G Key

    Do all members of any religion or sect agree on all the answers to all these questions?

    We have our beliefs, and they have theirs.  Are only ours sacred?  They have their values, and we have ours.  Are only ours inviolate?  Both we and they have lives, find loves, make personal choices, and celebrate honored traditions.  Are only ours rightful?

    Should we express hostility toward those who don’t go to our church? Should we invade their spiritual peace? Should we disparage what they hold dear? Should we refuse to employ them, and refuse to do business with them? Should we punish them?

    What happened to our humility? To our compassion? And to their religious freedom?

  • G Key

    Shall we embrace freedom, or fascism?  Society, or sociopathy?  Coexistence, or conquest?  If we don’t believe in something, we don’t engage in it. Isn’t that freedom? If they believe in that same thing, they engage in it. Isn’t that society?  If we disagree with their life choices, their lives are still theirs to live, not ours. Isn’t that coexistence?

    We live in a crowded theater.  Is it good to express our “Fire!” simply because we can?

    Does following the Golden Rule mean that we must respect others’ personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, rights, privacy, and equality, as we would have others respect our own personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, rights, privacy, and equality?

    Should we consider these questions as individuals? As a family? A society? A world?

  • Ben in oakland

    I don’t have to believe in your thing, whatever it is. I just have to believe that you believe it.

    This shows just how poookahs and unicorns inserts themselves into everything when anyone attempts to deny proof of their reality. Insidious little buggers.

  • Jack

    What sort of “proof” are you looking for, Eddie boy? Do you want God to show up at your abode at your command and then do a succession of magical tricks to convince you he’s real and exists?

    So long as he presents himself as your Lord and God to whom you are accountable, there is no way in the world you are going to accept him. That’s the whole heart of the matter. You say your life is yours, he says it’s his, and you can’t both be correct. How convenient to avoid the dilemma entirely by pretending he doesn’t exist. It’s like closing your eyes and believing you’ve just blotted out the sun.

    There is more than enough information in this world to convince a reasonable and honest person that there may be a God. And nice try in glossing over Israel & the Jews, and avoiding the sticky question about how they not only survived and thrived when given the chance, but how they came back to their land exactly as prophesized long before they were driven out.

  • Jack

    The Case for Christ is a classic and goes a lot deeper than most other apologetics books written for the average reader. The author does a really nice job asking difficult questions that most non-academics don’t consider and then allowing the experts wrestle with them and provide answers.

  • Par

    Jack-Amen/well said!

  • Larry

    “Do you want God to show up at your abode at your command and then do a succession of magical tricks to convince you he’s real and exists?”

    It would be a lot more objective and reliable than what passes for proof given by believers. It would be clear proof that religious belief is not entirely based on faith. For someone who claims that there is evidence to reasonably support the belief in Christianity, you seem awfully unwilling to demonstrate its existence. Appealing to authority and knee-jerk reference to apologetics is not presentation of evidence.

    Nobody in the history of the world has ever adopted a religious belief on the strength of rational arguments and evidence presented. Such arguments and alleged evidence are presented after the fact once someone has already developed faith in that belief. Apologia is not, nor ever can be considered a serious and rational exploration of religious belief. It is simply attempts at self-confirmation.

  • Larry

    “If we don’t believe in something, we don’t engage in it. Isn’t that freedom?”

    Not if you are attacking the ability of other people to do it.

    “If they believe in that same thing, they engage in it. Isn’t that society? ”

    Do you live in a purely Christian evangelical nation or community? If so, then yes. If you are an American, and don’t live on a compound somewhere the answer will invariably be no.

    “If we disagree with their life choices, their lives are still theirs to live, not ours. Isn’t that coexistence?”

    Not if you are attacking them for doing so. Not if you are trying to banish people from public existence over it. Not when you want to give your “disagreement” color of law So no, it isn’t co-existence anymore than any other form of bigotry has been.

    If you have trouble accepting that other people do not have to act in accordance with your religious views, that it does not require color of law, then you will never understand religious freedom.

  • ben in oakland

    God showing up and doing magic tricks is precisely what I would NOT want to see. I’ve watched magicians do the seemingly impossible. I’ve watched the impossible magic done in movies. All these tricks would convince me of is that someone is good at doing tricks.

    My idea is this. God shows up in all of his/her/their glory, and we simply know, without any tricks at all, by his holiness and awesomeness-in the old sense of awesome-that he is indeed god, no question about it.

    Or, paraphrasing Capt. kirk; “Why does god need magic tricks?”

    some people claim to know this god in this sense. So, why not all of us? And let’s up the ante. Let’s make sure it is the Christian god, and not Vishnu or Kwan-yin or Odin or Zeus.

  • G Key

    Well, put, Larry.

    I believe that it is wholly wrongful, and holistically harmful, for any spiritual/existential belief system or believer to disrespect another’s boundaries. I believe that it is blasphemous for any shepherd or sheep to claim rights to another’s blessed pasture. And I believe that such ungodly trespass leads to inhuman cruelty.

  • Wade

    The Case for Christ book that has been referred to above has been fully debunked. A quick google search will provide many links about that or just go to debunkingchristianity.blogspot.ca/2010/05/case-for-case-against-case-for-christ.html

  • G Key

    I find it shocking that so many people think it’s okay to attack others’ spiritual/existential beliefs.

    I believe that the difference between fact and faith is boundaries. I support religion. I’m gratefully comforted knowing that my parents had their heartfelt Christianity to carry them both through a terrible final year. And I think it’s wonderful that people who share the same beliefs can congregate to celebrate their shared beliefs together. But I object to believers of any kind taking it outside of their ranks to rustle other shepherds’ sheep….

  • G Key

    Why shouldn’t devout believers ask others what they believe, and why, and how those beliefs affect their lives, etc.; and then respectfully listen, and appreciate other people’s answers, savoring each one for what it is: a rare taste of another soul’s ambrosia? Why is this nectar-laden tree of life’s spiritual knowledge taboo? I believe this ban is a human device to institutionalize ignorance, demonize dissent, and ennoble enmity, driven by Man’s competitive worldview, and unctuously attributed to God in Genesis 3.

    God or no God, I believe that the responsibility lies solely with humanity to fix its own problems, and to enjoy the resulting earthly rewards on their own merits: because all of humanity benefits. (I like to imagine that our failure even to begin work on this difficult-but-not-impossible challenge is what’s been holding up the “real” God’s return….

  • G Key

    I care more about how people treat each other than about anything else, and I believe in the Golden Rule. But I’m just an atheist. Why haven’t people of all spiritual and existential persuasions long since forsaken all deliberate trespasses committed in the names of all personally chosen and cherished beliefs against all others?

  • Wade

    Pot calling Kettle…

    You sure aren’t a credit to your side, with namecalling like you just did.

  • ben in oakland

    Dam’ atheist. And typical! Always telling people to treat others as they would like to be treated.

    Next thing you know, you’ll be telling people not to judge others for their sins, but to mind their own business first. Or worse, insisting that the law should treat all faiths equally, when everyone knows there is only one true faith.

    Mine.

    sometimes, I just can’t believe you people.

  • ben in oakland

    Karla, karla, karla. There you go again.

    Pssssst. In 33AD, there was no bible.

  • G Key

    Of course, my citation of Genesis 3 only addresses the Abrahamic religions, but that tradition hardly holds a monopoly on providing “official” fuel to the fire of those who value reviling rather than respecting other people’s beliefs and traditions.

    For example, The Slingshot lists another article, “Satanists to counter Nativity scene with ‘snaketivity’ “, which title says it all.

    And let’s not forget the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, AKA Pastafarianism, which also ridicules the Abrahamic faiths.

    Of course, many if not most Christians, Jews, Muslims, Satanists, wiccans, atheists, agnostics, humanists, Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists, Confucianists, and adherents of the vast majority of other belief systems, both religious and otherwise, consider and condemn the notion of disparaging others’ spiritual/existential beliefs as nothing short of sacrilege….

  • G Key

    And then there are those whose perfect timing is matched only by their refreshing sarcasm. (Thanks, ben in oakland!)

    So I’ll take this bracing segue to express to what I think is behind the minority Religious Reich’s War Against Equal:

    It should be eminently evident to everyone on Earth by now that any issue involving religions, races, sexes, spouses, ages, abilities, classes, or cultures isn’t about any of those things at all. It’s really about how we perceive ourselves vis-à-vis total strangers.

    “Tolerance” — as opposed to simply living our own lives — implies that others’ lives are subject to our toleration, as if we deserve more say-so over their fully equal lives than they do over our merely equal ones.

    So how do we impose our imperial impertinence?

    We disarm with deceit to distract from the fact that their lives are none of our business:…

  • G Key

    “Our consciences command us!”

    Consciences leash the hounds, not the neighbors. That’s why our consciences are praised, our self-righteousness is scolded, and our whining bait-and-switch pitch smells dutiful. Such semantic subterfuge — to subvert equal rights? — underscores our need to reconscience our runaway urges and confine them to our own yards. (No, not the streets, too. They’re neither ours nor one-way.)

    “But we have to follow God’s orders!”

    But first we get to sniff at constitutional law governing the one true three religions’ exclusive authorities over nonmembers. Then we get to run with advertising, open houses, and faith fairs, all of which obey God’s orders, respect other shepherds’ sacred pastures, and allow us time to practice holding only ourselves to our beliefs, and subjecting only ourselves to our one faiths’ demands….

  • G Key

    “How they live wastes our tax dollars!”

    How we snarl at their lives speaks unspeakably of our capital criminal character. We don’t even acknowledge that “they” are individual persons and families, each living according to their own unique set of beliefs, values, objectives, priorities, aspirations, limitations, guesses, and compromises. The only difference between them and us is that we have the meanness and the opportunity. We use our right to congress to concoct a bunch of little non-white lives about them; then we deplore the lives that we lie that they live; then we snap their lifelines and force them to choose: Homelessness or prison? That’s how we honorably care for our poor….

  • G Key

    Whether the topic is religious reach, voting laws, social programs, or any other ringing bell, this rabidly psychopathic (Webster’s) “Look at them!” call to trespass is as obvious and shocking as it is ignored. I can’t understand why nobody ever points out this big bull elephant in our great room, not even with the ongoing outcry against bullying.

    Whatever happened to “Mind Your Own Business (unless you’ve got a press pass)”?

  • Ben in oakland

    @ gkey

    Always happy to oblige. ?

  • Barry the Baptist

    Don’t forget non-sequiturs!

  • Barry the Baptist

    Maybe individuals do, Jack. But that’s not what Louis Wright was insinuating. He painted any entire group of people with a very broad statement that he can’t back up empirically or rationally. Well, maybe rationally: it would be a terrible rationale, I imagine. Would you care to defend what LPW said?

  • Barry the Baptist

    Why would the Roman soldiers have known anything about the Jewish bible?

  • Barry the Baptist

    Jack,
    If you thought that worship of ancient Greek gods did not hold any water, would you investigate its numerous sects? If you thought that healing crystals did not work, would you be more or less inclined to try aromatherapy? If so, why? If not, why?

    Do you think it makes sense to discard/disregard ideas when they share too many commonalities with other ideas that you have already committed to the dust bin? Do you think that that is any different from what you do with the thousands of ideas that you have been exposed to? Why or why not?

  • Bingo

    What believer would invest his money in buying a book touting atheism? It’s mythology passing as reason to them. Much too intellectual to waste their time with drivel.