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May 30, 2006

Atheists Arrogant?

Rebecca Goldstein, author of a new biography of Spinoza, traces her interest in the philosopher to a comment made by a religion teacher:

"Spinoza had the arrogant love of his own mind. . . . Atheism always comes down to arrogance. Remember that, girls."

New atheist hero Stephen Colbert said something similar back in his Daily Show days, I believe:

Atheism: the religion devoted to the worship of one's own smug sense of superiority.

Is it possible to be a non-arrogant atheist? One wants to paraphrase (not for the first time) Barry Goldwater and say: Arrogance in defence of the mind, or science, or the universe, is no vice.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at May 30, 2006 11:13 PM


Would you believe that Colbert is in fact a devout Catholic? It sound incredible, but I've seen it confirmed by several independent sources. He does consider himself a progressive Christian:

"I love my Church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the Church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That's totally different from the Word, the blood, the body and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth."

Less bad than fundamentalism, but hardly an "atheist hero".

Posted by: Kristian Z. at May 31, 2006 2:15 AM

And... I'm not even sure it's less bad than fundamentalism. I have this internal debate with regards to moderate religiosity. In one respect is certainly is better than fundamentalism, meaning that moderates are often able to disregard their religion when it is at it's most destructive and when it undeniably clashes with scientific knowledge about the world, but in another sense it can be seen to add a level of respectability to what is really a case of sheer insanity, namely religiosity in general. If it wasn't for all the moderate religious people who give a somewhat sane face to religion, the fundamentalists would be put in insane asylums where they belong.

Posted by: Kristian Z. at May 31, 2006 5:19 AM


The far right thinks Colbert is one of them, and the atheists think so too.

I love him. He's brilliant.

Posted by: Donna at May 31, 2006 7:52 AM

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. - Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: Jennifer at May 31, 2006 9:24 AM

Arrogance is not soley a property of athiests.

The key point of arrogance is the exaggerated sense of ones own importance or abilities. If an athiest or a thiest is less important or less able than they think they are, they are exhibiting arrogance.

Counting the number of logical fallacies on either side of the athiest/theist debate cleary demonstrates where the exaggerated sense of one's own abilities lies, and it is not with the athiests.

Being right-and saying so-cannot be arrogance.

It may be prideful, but arrogance is the wrong word.

Posted by: Crosius at May 31, 2006 9:44 AM

Realizing each of us creates his or her own conscious universe and coming to terms with that power and responsibility requires a strong sense of self.

Arrogance--believing your construction is superior just because it is yours--is not only not a requirement for not believing in the supernatural, it makes it impossible to understand the relationships these individual constructions require for survival.

For our individual worlds to work together demands trust and love, strong enemies of arrogance.

Posted by: Jay Saul at May 31, 2006 10:27 AM

Those hacks aren't talking about arrogance... they're talking about strength, pride and resolve in alternative forms of faith. Yeah, athiests are likely candidates for this kind of slander, since few people are raised with atheist paradigms. What is all too common, of course, is the backwards self-righteousness of well, "... those who thought themselves good because they had no claws."

Arrogance shmarrogance! Just more corwards contemplating the floor boards being ripped up again.

Posted by: Loranku at June 18, 2006 2:39 AM

Who will address this strange fact? That atheism is impossible. Agnostics, all of us... for who still relies on proof as his vehicle of translation? And that faith remains a tool of staggering versitality?

I can see no way towards life without the use of faith. But I've heard it well-argued that the faith of an agnostic, in some cases at least, is a far greater and ever-more rewarding thing than that of the pious.

This is why designers are the new gods-- where function prevails.

Posted by: Loranku at June 18, 2006 2:46 AM

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