The Arrogance of Atheism

One of the most common complaints I hear against atheists is that they are "arrogant" for saying that there is no god or gods. How dare atheists presume to know that there is no god, when there's no way for humans to truly know whether god exists? Yet, believers never call themselves arrogant for presuming to believe that there is a god.

This is one of those classic anti-atheist arguments that honestly puzzles me. Certainly both theists and atheists are capable of behaving arrogantly. But how is simply not believing something considered to be arrogant?

I know some people hate to bring the dictionary into these discussions, but I think clearly defining terms is an important part of any communication. So here's a basic definition of arrogance: offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.

Often religious people claim that atheists are arrogant because they think they are "better than god." This is based on atheists saying that they don't need a belief of god to be good, moral and valuable people. To those who believe in god, people saying that they do not need their "creator" is seen as an offensive display of superiority or self-importance. Yet how can atheists be superior to something that they don't believe exists?

Atheists are also called arrogant for stating that they "know" god does not exist. There are two problems with this argument.
1. If atheists are arrogant for not believing in god when there is no way to prove god's existence, then theists would also be arrogant for believing in god when there is no way to prove god's existence.
2. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods. Most atheists look at the evidence presented by those who do believe in god and simply don't find it compelling enough to join in their belief.
Let's look at a similar example: Sally believes that extraterrestrial aliens have secretly visited our planet. Joe does not. There is currently not enough evidence to definitively prove the matter.

Either Sally or Joe could certainly behave arrogantly when discussing the matter if they chose to do so. But does Sally's belief in visiting aliens, or Joe's lack of belief in the same, inherently make either of them arrogant? Aren't they each entitled to have their own thoughts on the subject?

What if Sally isn't content to simply believe that aliens exist? Perhaps she decides to tell others about her beliefs and the alleged proof that she has gathered. She has weekly meetings with other believers, takes a shift watching the sky at an observatory, starts a website, writes a book and goes on talk shows to promote her beliefs.

Is that arrogance? No. Sally is simply sharing her belief with others and letting them use that information to form their own opinions.

Now, Sally takes it a step further. She decides that everyone else must believe what she does about alien visitors. She tells non-believers that the aliens are watching, and that anyone who does not believe in them will be tortured when the aliens take over Earth. She seeks government funding for her efforts in spreading the "truth," attempts to create laws that favor those who share her beliefs, and lobbies to have public schools teach kids about alien visitors.

Could Sally's actions be considered arrogant now? Yes, I would say that attempting to force her beliefs on others, and saying that people will be tortured if they don't believe like she does, constitutes an offensive display of superiority or self-importance.

What is Joe doing through all this? When Joe first hears about Sally's ideas, he might not think much of them, or he might be curious. He might even read her book, listen to her talk show interviews, and look over her alleged proof, yet none of it resonates with him. He sees reasons other than aliens behind Sally's proof, and simply isn't compelled to believe.

Is that arrogance? No. Joe is under no obligation to believe anything just because Sally believes it.

When Sally publicly shares her beliefs, there is nothing arrogant about Joe speaking up about why he does not believe her message. They are each entitled to share their thoughts on the subject.

The sticky point comes when Sally arrogantly tries to force others to agree with her beliefs. This is not just a problem for Joe and the others who do not believe. You see, Sally believes in very specific little gray aliens. There are other groups who believe in all kinds of other types of alien visitors.

When Sally tries to assert that the little gray aliens are the only truth, she tramples the beliefs of many other people. All of those other people have a right to defend their beliefs. Joe also has a right to defend the fact that he doesn't believe that any aliens have visited our planet.

Is it arrogance to stand up and say that people shouldn't be forced to share the same beliefs? Is it arrogance to say that the basis of our governing laws should lie in facts and truths that are backed up by hard evidence and not in the beliefs of a certain group? Apparently it is, but only if you're an atheist. 


  1. RAmen! Did somebody pee in your cornflakes? ;)

  2. LOL! No, just reading the comments on some Internet articles--a pretty certain way to get myself in a bad mood. :-)

  3. The problem also lies in the subjectivity of the word "offensive". What is considered offensive to one person may certainly not be to another. Therefore, the degree of offense is really determined by the reader, not the author. This puts full responsibility on the reader for "being offended", rather than blaming an author (or speaker) for "being offensive".

    And even if someone is "offended" by someone "arrogantly" sharing their opinions...big deal! This is what adults do...people need to stop whining and grow up. Stepping on the childish fantasies of religious folk is bound to provoke an equally childish chorus of whining. Until they leave their prison of developmental delay, we'll have to accept their child-like limitations and do the best we can.

  4. You have insight and are right to say that no one person is obligated to believe in any religion and they should not be forced to believe in anything either. Belief is a decision, everything we do is a decision, even if someone were to reveal compelling evidence that God exist or not; ultimately it is our decision to believe. We should not say that Christians have 100% evidence that God exists, and that atheist have 100% proof that He does not. We choose, which according to the Christian belief is free-will.

  5. But there are instances that atheist have to agree with that there has to be something out there with the power to form. From nothing all came sounds radical. There are unexplainable topics ,such as the human eye anatomy and their functions, which disprooves all things evolved. Research the eye, than research pre-destination.

  6. "There are unexplainable topics ,such as the human eye anatomy and their functions, which disprooves all things evolved. Research the eye, than research pre-destination."
    This just again shows the Arrogance of Christians. The eye does not prove that evolution couldn't have evolved all things. Maybe you should add the defintion of proof in your next artical, most Christians just don't seem to understand the word.
    Even Charles Darwin wrote
    "that the evolution of the eye by natural selection at first glance seemed "absurd in the highest possible degree". However, he went on to explain that despite the difficulty in imagining it, this was perfectly feasible:"
    That was more then 150 years ago, scientists know A LOT more now. I suppose once it's 2000 years old, Christians might start taking it more seriously.
    I could never understand why Christians think Atheists are arrogant, when the only real arrogant behaiour I've witnessed comes from Religous people. Defending ones own rights from discrimination is not arrogant, forcing them on someone is.

  7. In reality.. the way most/if not all Christians act and behave.... is very un-Christian like.

    A famous quote I really like is.
    "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"-Mohandas Gandhi

    Rings very true with me. I was brought up going to Church and I like the teachings in the bible. I just don't like Christians.